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TV 101: The TV Watcher's Bill Of Rights

by Jay Black, posted Apr 28th 2010 2:21PM
Little known fact, the kid in this video wound up being the guy who robbed Kal Penn at gunpoint.Our congress has a cute way of handling problems. Instead of actually doing anything about them, what they do is pass a Something Something Bill of Rights.

For instance, when Spirit Airlines recently announced that they were going to charge for the use of overhead storage space on their airplanes (a prelude, of course, to their ultimate plan of stabbing each customer in the throat, then charging for tourniquets), Congress handled the problem by dredging up the old "Passenger's Bill of Rights" idea once again.

Now, some might criticize Congress by saying, "Passenger's Bill of Rights!? We don't even have the actual Bill of Rights on our side when we fly", but those people are missing the point: Bills of Rights only exist to take up space.

As it happens, taking up space is exactly what a columnist needs to do each week as well! So, today marks the beginning of a new series: the TV Watchers Bill of Rights!

Before we get to this week's amendment, here's a little background on how I came up with it:

Last week, the NFL moved the first round of its draft from Saturday morning to Thursday evening in prime time. This move fits well with the NFL mission statement of maximizing every opportunity to increase its ratings and to destroy the marriages of its fans.

Judging from the numbers (as well as the fight my wife and I had), its plan is working wonderfully.

The only problem with the NFL's move is that it forced people to choose between it and the several NBA and NHL playoff games that were running opposite it. Since watching sports is one of the few things left on television that people prefer to do live, even if you had a DVR, picking one basically meant missing the other.

And what choice did people make? If you're not a sports fan, let me put it this way - if sports were Kardashian sisters, the NFL would be Kim, the NBA would be Khloe, and the NHL would be Bruce Jenner. To put it another way, the NFL muscling in on a prime time April night is like Ron Howard and Clint Howard going after the same girl - no contest.

The NBA and NHL got clobbered.

Now, my instinct here is to say that the rules of the schoolyard apply - biggest kid gets to do what he wants (note: I'm referring to the schoolyards up until about 1986 - any time after that, the sole rule of the schoolyard is "He who cries the loudest to the peer mediation counselor gets to miss a month of gym"). If the NFL is what people want to watch, then it's up to the NBA and the NHL to improve their product, end of story.

Except that attitude hurts the average sports fan. Because, while they might love the NFL and will watch the draft over everything, they might also really like the NBA and (ahem) the NHL. The NFL has a whole month to work with - surely it could find a time where its programming decision doesn't conflict with the other sports.

In fact, not only is that what the NFL should have done, it's what every network should do with all of its programming. And that's the First Amendment of the TV Watcher's Bill of Rights: the networks must make a good faith effort to make sure that no more than two "Must See" shows air at the same time and night.

If you're a TV fan, there's nothing worse than having more good TV on one night than you're able to handle. Look at Monday's at 8 PM for instance - you have 'How I Met Your Mother', 'House', and 'Chuck' all rolling at the same time. Not only are they three great shows running opposite of each other, but the Venn diagram of the kind of smart, savvy TV fan who would like them also happens to overlap almost perfectly.

But because those three shows all air at the exact same time, the networks miss out on potentially higher ratings and viewers are forced to miss some great TV or dance a complicated DVR/Hulu shuffle.

Programming like this is dumb.

Especially troublesome is when a network uses a hot show to establish a beachhead on a night and time already dominated by another network. The most famous example of this took place in the '90s, when FOX decided to take its hottest, hippest show, 'The Simpsons', and go after NBC's long-in-the-tooth, but still incredibly popular 'Cosby Show', by moving the former to Thursdays.

This was like the preteen version of 'Sophie's Choice': there was no good answer to what to watch.

Now, of course, I'm not arguing against competition, it's not like the networks are going to go dark when another channel has a hit show people want to watch. But, on the other hand, it's not that difficult to make a good faith effort to place a show in a way that makes things better for everyone, fans and networks alike.

My Amemdment is simple: when a network has a show that they know people are going to want to watch - a 'Lost' or a 'Dancing with the Stars' or a 'Christina Hendricks Sits Quietly on the Beach in Her Bikini for Two Hours' (something that I'm pitching around LA right now) - instead of using that show's popularity capital to bludgeon down the fan base of another network's programming, they should just do their best to find a relatively quiet spot for it, so that the most people can watch it.

Is that idealistic and stupid? Yeah, probably. But that's the whole point of a Bills of Rights: to be as idealistic and stupid as possible in the hope that one day someone is actually dumb enough to go through with it.

I mean, if it wasn't for taking dumb fliers on dangerous ideas, I wouldn't have the freedom of speech to write this article in the first place.

(Jay Black is a comedian and writer who really hopes you live this column. For more information on Jay or to catch one of his live shows, visit his website at www.jayblackcomedy.net).

[Follow @jayblackcomedy on Twitter]

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Chuck

I'm down with that Christina Hendricks show, as long as there's some jumping/trampoline acrobatics involved. Okay, I'm down with it anyway, but the jumping would make it even better.

April 29 2010 at 9:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
am_hollitz

1) No hour-long program may be advertised as being "extra special" because it has been added to by one minute. A one-hour-and-one-minute program is not special, it is a ploy to mess with people's DVR scheduling.

2) Because the potential exists for "Live" programming to run long (e.g., Superbowl, Presidential Address, American Idol), the network must schedule the evening newscast to immediately follow the live show. Shortening the newscast provides less disruptuion to the viewer than a DVR cutting off the end of a "brand new episode" of a popular show (epsecially since the news cast usually devotes even more time to sumarize who won the Superbowl/what the President said/who got booted off of Idol.)

April 28 2010 at 4:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gonnabechef

1. No show penned by Joss Whedon may be canceled until Whedon says he has no more stories to tell about those characters.
2. All HD. All the time. No exceptions.
3. Programming is a global commodity. Monetize it or give it away, but don't block the import and export of TV shows.

April 28 2010 at 3:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Hank

TV Watcher's Bill of Rights:
1. The network logo on the bottom of the screen must not appear on any show that will have subtitles.
2. Promos that crawl across any part of the screen while a show is on shall be prohibited.
3. Credits shall be in a typeface that is actually readable.
4. Ted McGinley is banned from all channels.

April 28 2010 at 2:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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