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September 1, 2014

All Allison wants for Festivus

by Allison Waldman, posted Dec 18th 2008 11:30AM
P daisiesOh, Festivus, Oh, Festivus, the holiday for TV fans. How exciting that once a year we can close our eyes, click our heels and make our wishes for the magical ways television can be made better in the year to come. Still, there are more than a few changes that I think need to be made to make TV better ... not to say that it's bad. It just that everything can be better.

This is a great opportunity to get a little Scrooge-y and vent about what I want to see corrected/improved/altered in TV in 2009. Is it wrong that I hope the bigwigs at the networks and cable companies are surfing the net and take my grievances to heart? Is it wrong that I still believe they care about what viewers think? Yeah, probably, but here's my wish list anyway:

• Equal the playing field: It's not fair that Mad Men can be a success on AMC with just about a million viewers per episode, while Pushing Daisies is going to be canceled for only bringing in six million viewers per episode. One's on cable, the others on network. I get it. But it's not fair. If ABC had a stronger line-up across the week, Eli Stone and Pushing Daisies might survive, although CBS still dumped Moonlight. I wish there was a way for these network shows to be able to survive and thrive -- creatively -- without the worry that if they don't hit a particular Nielsen number or demographic category, they're toast. Maybe I should wish for Pushing Daisies to be picked up by HBO or Showtime?

• Make a change in management at NBC: You've had more than enough chances, Jeff Zucker. You're a wealthy man. You've lived the Peter Principle. It's time to go away to a desert island somewhere and let a new regime -- sans Ben Silverman -- take over the Peacock network with some fresh ideas that involve actual creative, fictional TV production. As it is now, NBC may be saving/making money, but where are the great shows that mark its history? Where are the new West Wings or ERs or Hill Street Blues? Where's the next Seinfeld or Cosby Show or Family Ties or even The Golden Girls? Get some new management in charge, and do it before it's too late and NBC becomes all-Today Show all the time + Jay Leno.

• Give Amy Sherman-Palladino another chance: Leaving Gilmore Girls before the final season was a shame. The show didn't end as you envisioned it, and then came the woeful Fox comedy, The Return of Jezebel James. Amy, I forgive you for that one. Everyone can have a bad project. And since I've mentioned Gilmore Girls, I also wish for Lauren Graham a really wonderful new show on ABC. She's such a terrific actress; I'm looking forward to seeing her back on TV.

• Let American TV try the British system: There's something to be said for the way they plan TV series in England. Instead of an open-ended run, they may only run 12 or 16 episodes of a show. They plan on a certain story to be told in a certain number of shows and that's it. If they had adopted that philosophy for a show like Pushing Daisies, instead of the show likely ending without closure this spring, TV fans would have seen all that Bryan Fuller had planned in let's say 20 episodes. I know that for the networks, this idea means that economically, there's little chance for syndicated residuals, and if you have a hit, you want to run with it. But some ideas are better told in limited runs.

• Get some better shows in syndication: I'm tired of all the judge and court TV. It's overkill. And talk shows. Argh! The Doctors are dull, and next season we're getting Dr. Oz, too. I want variety in syndication. Why not take a tip from local programming, syndicators? In the New York/New Jersey area, watch IndiMusic TV, where independent artist music videos are aired in the old MTV-style with VJ's and fans vote online for favorites. Or Check, Please, which is on local PBS channels and rates local restaurants. Syndication used to be all old sitcoms, but these days it's too much reality.

• Fix the variety and award shows: Rosie Live was a disaster. It shouldn't have been live, and Rosie should have known better how to do a variety show. The Emmys should have known better than to ask five reality show hosts to emcee the awards when they have no affinity to entertain, let alone read off a Teleprompter. So in 2009, let's hope that Hugh Jackman combines real variety -- he did win a Tony award for singing and dancing on Broadway -- with the ability to present awards on the Oscars. And if anyone dares take a shot at variety again, please consult the pros who've done them before. Barbra Streisand has half a dozen Emmys for her TV specials; maybe she could direct Beyonce in one -- Color Me Beyonce!

• Don't be a snob: I think every one of us who scoffs at reality TV, disses Gossip Girl, or looks down on popular shows like CSI or Desperate Housewives should be encouraged to watch said shows before making their judgment. I've been guilty of this myself, assuming that I would find Keeping Up with the Kardashians unworthy of my attention. Well, we can all benefit from sampling all that TV has to offer. CNN's Planet in Peril might sound like it would put you to sleep, but before writing it off, give it a shot.

• Give soaps a break: The soaps are great! I don't care what the critics say; I have loved the soaps since I was a teenager. Me and millions of other TV fans enjoy the daytime dramas and so have generations of families. You cannot let this genre die because today's TV landscape is not what it was in the '60s, '70s or '80s. Those kind of Nielsen numbers and audience share cannot be duplicated today, because TV is too fragmented and there's too much choice every afternoon. When I hear some say that Guiding Light should be canceled because it's had a bad year, I'm ready to bust. GL has been on the air -- radio and TV -- for 71 years. It's allowed to have a bad year. If they give up this outdoors, on-location filming style, it will bounce back. Even more than CBS dropping GL is my fear that NBC will pull the plug on Days of Our Lives. Jeff Zucker, I'm warning you -- don't cancel Days! It's an NBC classic and the last soap on your network.

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RobynM

You've definitely got my vote on most of these - particularly equalizing the field and moving to the British system.

There are literally hundreds of channels for viewers to choose from these days. Networks have -got- to accept that they're not going to get the numbers they used to before cable and satellite and adjust their expectations accordingly.

They also need to realize that phenomena like Heroes and Lost are the exception and stop acting like they're the norm that all shows should be living up to.

More episodes does not equal better. If the storyline as the creator sees it only needs say, 12-15 eps, that's fine. If a bunch of filler gets dropped in just to stretch it out, people are going to notice and react accordingly.

Shorter seasons also mean more shows can be greenlit. Instead of trying to fit one show year-round, two or three could run over the course of the year.

December 18 2008 at 9:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
C C

The "British System" is already here-it just hasn't hit the major networks yet. All the major scripted cable shows run 6-16 episodes a year. Trust me, network series will pretty much be forced into producing fewer episodes in the near future.

Totally agree with Jeff Zucker. Fortunately for Zucker, it's believed parent company GE isn't really that interested in seeing creative and original programming on NBC flourish-they're more interested in the bottom line and keeping costs down.

December 18 2008 at 5:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Laurie

This is a great list, but I can't agree about Amy Sherman-Palladino. Gilmore Girls had a golden start, but the show was in trouble long before the Palladinos left, and I feel that ASP did not serve the fans or the characters well, instead going for the clever line or cheap plot twist. It showed very little respect for the story that started out so beautifully. I will never watch another show that she's involved in.

December 18 2008 at 4:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Maria

Enough with the freaking Festivous. All I want for Festivous is the old TV Squad recaps. The old shows that were taken down due to lower ratings or whatever. Fine, sure, yeah, like a freaking million of these stupid Festivous blogs are so popular. Ugh. Goodbye.
*YEAH I get it, I know, stop reading-which I will. I understand-you cant do anything and to write to the main address...whatever.

December 18 2008 at 11:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
CRVBOY

The British system sucks for shows. There are 52 weeks in a year. Give us 26 episodes a year. That gives us each show on twice. Stop moving shows and pre-empting them for other things (like debates, sports, specials, etc).

And get a better rating system. Using 1 person and say they represent a million is ludicrous. With the internet, it would be easy to figure out what people watch. Everyone logs onto a site and puts in. That way you get some more "realistic" numbers.

December 18 2008 at 11:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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