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TV Squad Ten: What I would get rid of in television

by Richard Keller, posted Feb 25th 2009 2:04PM

Television needs a hosing down. Here's ten suggestions to clean it up.Television as an industry is in need of a major overhaul. It's old, dusty, soiling itself, and not keeping up with the technology that changes from day to day. If it were an old, sick animal, or Larry King, it would probably be put to sleep. Alas, so many of us rely on the old biddy that it would be hard for us to say good-bye.

Luckily, I am a resourceful, intelligent and, dare I say it, gorgeous human being who has some ideas in mind to freshen up the television landscape. Yes, it may mean sacrifice from some of us (mainly network executives) and we may lose something in the process. But, in the end, the industry that we love to quietly despise while watching Cheaters will thrive once again.

1. The 22-episode schedule: The removal of the 22-episode series run has already begun, but it's not fast enough for me. With the cable networks breaking their seasons up into smaller parcels, the original concept of a fall to spring season is now archaic. Time to give viewers a true year-round schedule of original programming rather than a summer inundated with reality dreck.

2. Nielsen ratings: Back when only a few people owned television sets the Nielsen rating system probably made some sort of sense. With the population of the U.S. now surpassing a bloated 300 million, having a handful of "Nielsen families" determining how many people are watching a particular show is just ridiculous. Add the fact that many of us watch our favorite programs hours or days after they aired (thanks to DVR and the Internet) and the current ratings system is inaccurate as Bill O'Reilly. Toss it all in the trash and replace it with a more meaningful ratings system. Which brings me to my next point...

3. Sweeps: Three times a year the networks load their schedules up with new and flashy episodes of their series in order to wine and dine advertisers. Most of the time this takes up half their episode runs, leaving us fans with a very limited amount of new stuff to last the other seven months of the season. Going back to Nielsen ratings, can the networks really determine a proper price to charge for advertising when viewers are watching their shows via so many other platforms? Again, this is another antiquated practice that needs to be flushed down the toilet.

4. Network newscasts: I don't know if the three legacy networks realize this, but we live in a world of 24/7 news gathering. By the time Katie, Brian and Charlie say 'Good Evening' to us we've been inundated with news from the Internet, our cell phones, and the guy at the bus stop screaming about the microchip in his head. Fact is, we probably know more about what's going on in the world than the three evening news anchors do. I say move them all to cable outlets and give those 30 minutes to something more important. Like an extra run of TMZ.

5. Infomercials: Sometime in the past the concept of the infomercial was probably a good idea to fill time slots that really didn't generate a lot of viewership. Presently, however, these 30-minute commercials are just being used as an excuse not to air anything interesting at any time. I mean, when you see a Shamwow infomercial at 2:30 on a Wednesday afternoon you know something is wrong. Personally, I'd rather see repeats of According to Jim in that time slot than an infomercial.

6. Heavily edited movies for commercial networks: Why even bother anymore? With Netflix, On Demand, and 500 pay cable channels available, plus Turner Classic Movies, what's the purpose of slicing and dicing theatrical movies so they'll fit the puritanical standards of the commercial networks. What's even worse is, since the movie times have been severely cut down, the networks add a whole bunch of commercials to pad it out. Again, I'd rather see repeats of According to Jim in those slots.

7. Saturday morning cartoons: The networks try, but the Saturday mornings of sitting in front of the television while wolfing down a bucketful of Lucky Charms are long gone. Who really watches these shows when the Disney and Nickelodeon family of channels (and Cartoon Network) provide much better fare? The networks should just take the model they use during the week and load up the Saturday morning schedule with news and court shows. Maybe a court show where news reporters deal with their small claims suits.

8. Laugh Tracks (or, as they say in the industry, Canned Laughter): I don't think any crappy comedy has been saved by canned laughter. If anything, those shows are more painful to watch since the laughter is inserted into every unfunny moment that can be found. Honestly, having no canned laughter would probably help the shows somewhat rather than harm them.

9. TV show remakes: Okay, the remake of Battlestar Galactica was a hit. And, the return of 90210 made its mark. However, that doesn't happen with every remake of a classic television show. More than likely, the remakes are a pale comparison to the predecessors. Instead of thinking of ways to remake shows like Melrose Place writers should think about original ideas to submit to the networks.

And, one more to grow and inch:

10. Jerry Springer: Because, if you've seen one cat fight between lesbian, drug addict vampires from another galaxy and their alcoholic, transvestite baby daddies you've seen one too many.

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I can't agree with getting rid of all reality tv as I'm an avid American Idol fan.

I'm sick of new reality shows though. I think shows like AI, Survivor and So You Think You Can Dance which have made a name for themselves should stay.

I mean I can't think of a show like AI that brings America together. You want to get rid of that? I mean 25 million Americans watch AI, just because you are a minority you think you have a say in what the rest of us enjoy?

March 24 2009 at 2:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I would
1) get rid of hiatus; I never know when a show I watch starts back again, except by accidents. And it's just ridiculous to have 2 weeks on, 6 weeks off.
2) initiate fall shows that run straight through, then switch to winter shows that run straight through, then spring shows, then summer shows, again, that run straight through. Some shows can still do year long, but no effing hiatuses/hiati.
3) get rid of reality shows, although some are decent to precious. But they water down TV to bad drama.
4) get rid of sitcoms. They more often than not suck.
5) watch TV and be surprised again. There used to be a time when I would wake up in the middle of the time at 2 or 3:00 AM and just go into the living room and flick the TV on because I was awake and couldn't go back to bed right away. Channels like TNT would have something juicy/strange/exotic on. I watched subtitled "Wing Chun" and the "The Heroic Trio" with Michelle Yeoh. So much fun. I would watch "What's my Line?" with "John Charles Daly." I devoted an entire half summer to theme weekdays on Scifi. I think Tuesday was superhero, so they would do a marathon of "The Hulk" or "Wonder Woman!" Some other day, it was a marathon of Alien Nation. Scifi actually produced decent comedic shows like "The Invisible Man," and "The Chronicle." I am still working on Battlestar Galactica (which ran as a marathon on one of those days as well - the old series I mean), but TV used to be absolutely fun at one point in time. Now, like hulu says, turns brains to goop, and you don't get to have fun.
6) LImit the # of seasons a show might get. Ideas often run out. Laughs run out. End it and end it well/meaningfully while you still got a shot.
I love TV, but I am frustrated. I am frustrated with the lack of ideas and the wealth of money making schemes that is permeating our tele sets today.

February 27 2009 at 3:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

@CParis - I was not aware they bumped up their meter sample to 9,000 this year, the 5,000-6,000 number was from last year and it didn't change much from year to year. 9,000 still qualifies as a handful to me compared to 114,500,000 homes in America though. But that last sentence in your comment from Nielsen is a flat out lie. People meters do not provide a reliable measurement for the American viewers, just for the Nielsen homes that were sampled. They also have the paper diaries but they shouldn't even count because by the time they are swept up in sweeps a few shows have already been cancelled for low ratings based on the people meters. And all the overnights and top 20 rated show lists for the past 3 months are never updated publicly with the paper diary data so whats the point of having them? The good news from what I just read is that Nielsen could be sold pretty soon and there are also 4-5 other companies ready to jump into the ratings game. Hopefully there will be some new companies that take the ratings biz away from Nielsen. It's about time.

February 26 2009 at 3:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jorge, I watch the Care Bears on the CBS Kewlopolis animation block every Saturday morning. It is only about 57% commercials, and I feel it is very important to teach children the value of spelling words incorrectly.

February 26 2009 at 9:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Alot of these I agree on, however I think the nightly newshas to stay. I don't want or need an extra dose of TMZ or Extra. The nightly news is local news. You listed half a dozen news outlets and 24/7 access to news.. however most of them cover world events. CNN isn't going to cover the actions the city of Dallas are taking to recover from a drought, or that a UPS truck overturned on LBJ freeway.

Local news keeps me aware of things tht immediately effect me. They often have human interest stories of someone that could be me. I know when the cable company is trying to raise the price of tv anc when the vote for it is in city hall. They repo0rt things that matter to me. None of it I'd hear on Fox news or MSNBC.

And you forgot to add 'reality shows' to your list!!

February 26 2009 at 2:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Personally, I love the 22-episode season of major network shows. I'd rather they be 24 or 28, but I'll take 22. However, I what I would like is smaller 12-episode offerings to fill in the yearly gaps. NBC was supposed to air the mini-series Merlin during January and February. That would have been cool. Maybe the networks could have a 10-episode series that airs every January/February while the regular series takes a break. And Nielsons should be junked or seriously revamped.

February 25 2009 at 11:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Nielsen ratings are just a tool. The statistical models provide valuable, worthwhile data. The fact that the data may not be used effectively by the networks is not the fault of the tool.

February 25 2009 at 11:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

How can MTV/VH1 not make this list??? Simple oversight maybe?

February 25 2009 at 9:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If I was put in charge of changing the landscape of television, there are several things I would do.

First, I would put an end to over-the-air broadcasts and have them via cable or satellite to provide better picture quality and accessibility. Now, that probably would require everyone to pay to watch TV. With that, I'd have the channels be commercial free. Honestly, people today don't really watch the commercials due to the ever-changing technology in television (i.e. DVRs).

Secondly, I would reduce the numbers of channels. With over 500 channels, who in the world would have the time to watch that much television! I'd bet that there are so much programmings that aren't being watched and that's a huge waste of money. I'd have channels run current original programs only. Older programs would be available via download (i.e. OnDemand or the internet).

Thirdly, I would cease the 24-hour running of programs. Channels will be be off-air for certain number of hours (i.e. nothing during the daytime as most people are at work). There will be certain exceptions such as news. This would enable to give people a much more healthy and more balanced lives.

And lastly but not the least, I would tone down on the rather strict regulations on how programs are presented. Less censorship and encourage TV networks to push their limits. I would have shows containing profanity, nudity, sexual content and such after 10pm. That means parents would know that television after 10pm would not be suitable for children. I'm tired of people raising hell about shows including "mature" content even if it was put on after 10pm! We have TV ratings and yet people complain! Parents, it is YOUR responsibility, not the government and what the hell are you doing, letting your children up past their bedtime! You should expect that the more late it is, the more likely the programs will contain mature materials!

What do you guys think?

February 25 2009 at 8:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to conrad.jd's comment
Brent McKee

Conrad, you really don't want to know what I think because I think your proposals verge on the moronic.

Your first proposal would make TV an elitist medium - only people who could afford cable or satellite could watch TV.

Your second proposal eliminates the very reason for satellite and cable TV - broadcasting to niche audiences, rather than catering to mass audiences. The fewer channels you have the more they have to cater to a mass audience.

The third proposal assumes that everyone maintains the same schedule. Not everyone is at work during the daytime hours when you consider shift workers or stay at home parents. For that matter when would TV run. Not in the daytime when people are at work, and presumably not after 11 p.m. when people are asleep. Would every channel start at 5 p.m. (when adults are home from work) and end at 11?

The only one of your proposals I agree with. But wait, that 10 p.m. watershed after which mature content is allow is exactly what Americans have today! You can look it up. The way that the PTC and the other pressure groups were able to get the FCC fines on "NYPD Blue" and "Without A Trace" was because those shows aired before 10 p.m. in certain time zones. Oh, and if all TV is only available through satellite and cable then it ceases to fall under the jurisdiction of FCC and they can show whatever they want whenever they want.

February 26 2009 at 6:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

@Zachary - The Nielsen sample is only a handful of Americans. There are over 300 million Americans with over 114,500,000 households but they only sample 10,000 - 12,000 households for their ratings. Half of them have set top boxes and the other half that live in the boonies have paper diaries. The paper diaries only get mailed in during sweeps every few months so they dont count in the overnight ratings or the weekly top 20 ratings. So really most of the time the networks are basing their programming decisions on 5,000 - 6,000 families viewing habits for most of the year. So 6,000 households out of 114,500,000 is definitely just a handful. So if it just so happens that only a few of those 6000 watch 1 show but 100 million other Americans are watching that same show, it doesnt matter. That show gets yanked off the air and thats that. And how do we know that American Idol is being watched by all those people. It certainly is popular with the Nielsen families. But how do we know that they're not the only ones that are watching it? It hardly seems fair that what most of us get to choose to watch is decided by a small handful of familes. They need to at least sample 10% of American households. And they need to take into account internet, cellphones, xbox, cable on demand, and any other way people use to watch tv. With all the technology available today they should just let anyone participate in the ratings that wants to. Most cable boxes, sat receivers, and dvrs are capable of recording that data for ratings. If you dont want to participate because of privacy concerns then your favorite shows won't get counted in the ratings. I'll bet the top rated shows won't look nothing like they do now. And they would change frequently week to week based on guest stars or specials. As for the 22 episode season, I think they ought to have 2 11 episode mini seasons surrounding the holiday special time. They should also cram all the award shows in with the holiday specials and get all that over with from Nov - Jan. And I like them showing reality crap during the summer so I can catch up on the movies I missed out during the tv season. And I never watch cut-up movies on regular channels. They always cut out all the good stuff.

February 25 2009 at 8:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to MERVE-THE-PERVE's comment

Polls from the 2008 election used smaller sample sizes than that.

I did not mean to endorse Nielsen. My point was that it should not be dismissed so easily. Without evidence that it is completely misrepresenting actual viewership, the data cannot be challenged. Anecdotally saying that 99 of the top 100 shows suck is not proof (they do).

"So if it just so happens that only a few of those 6000 watch 1 show but 100 million other Americans are watching that same show, it doesnt matter."
This is possible, but is it likely? That is what statistics is all about.

February 25 2009 at 9:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Get up to date:
From Nielsen's website:
For national audience measurement, we provide data from a statistically selected sample of more than 9,000 households, containing over 18,000 people who have agreed to participate.

Data is collected electronically every night through our Nielsen People Meter, which is installed in our sample homes on TV sets, VCRs, cable boxes, and even satellite dishes. People Meters provide reliable measurement 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

February 25 2009 at 10:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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