Most People Want 'Survivor' Canceled, Poll Says

by Paul William Tenny

There are two things I really love in life, one is beating people over the head with the obvious. The other is savoring the destruction of all prime-time network reality exploit-vision. According to an AP article I read yesterday, I now have the opportunity to do both, pass recent public polling has determined that Survivor must die, and "TV is getting worse." Well, my first thought is that anyone who thinks that probably doesn't want and enjoy television much in the first place, because television is getting better every year. Even when some of the best fiction ever made gets six episodes then buried by greedy, paranoid, short tempered networks (Firefly [13], Studio 60 [24], Drive [4], Jericho [24]) we've got little bundles of miracle that manage to claw their way into our homes and DVD collections (Heroes, Lost, Pushing Daisies?)

Getting worse? Not a chance.
It's so easy to drill down to what the real problem is when it comes to questions of cultural/entertainment preference. Basically, you ask how old the person is. Here is an example, from the story.

Terrie Williams doesn't know anything about what's coming up in this fall's new television season. And she's fine with that. Williams, a mother of four from Richmond Park, Ill., is among the 62 percent of Americans who say that TV programs are getting worse, according to a poll by The Associated Press and AOL Television. Only 22 percent said they are getting better.

"They didn't curse on TV like they do now," said Williams, 38. "My daughter is 19 and I am still uncomfortable watching things with her. It's all about sex, sex, sex."

38. In TV years, that's old, and no offense to people up in that age range, but it's like baseball and pitchers. When you hit 40 as a pitcher in baseball, unless you're a freak like Roger Clemens - you're done. That's just all there is to it. When you reach that age, invariably some part of you falls out of sync with the rest of the world, be it your body, or your cultural influences that made you who you are.

There isn't a TV show on the air that was burning up the ratings when Terrie Williams was glued to the couch, and the networks aren't targeting her age group anymore. Not because the age group changed, but because she grew out of it. The networks want mostly males, 19-25 or so, because that is the demographic that buys things recklessly, and in great quantity. Most mainstream shows appeal to young men, because those are the people advertisers pay the most to be fed to.

So that changes the perspective quite a bit already, doesn't it? Is TV getting worse, or is Terrie Williams and others like her getting too old to enjoy youth-orientated entertainment? I think it's fairly arrogant to declare something as subjective as all-of-television, or even a specific program, to be bad just because you don't like it. I don't like sitcoms but that doesn't mean they are bad. Undoubtedly there are bad sitcoms, but it takes more than personal preference to throw around insults like that.

And age isn't the only factor, as the polling data shows, religious conservatives have labeled most television "bad" even though a significant portion of it is actually outstanding (as evidenced by them winning awards.) In reality, they are simply being cultural prudes. Nothing wrong with that, mind you, but it is vastly unfair to dismiss an entire program as bad when it is quite clearly a winner in the ratings, and a fan favorite. That's just being intentionally obtuse.

Eugene King, a designer from Philadelphia, may typify what Brooks means. King, 51, agreed that television isn't what it used to be, yet can tick off all the things he likes to watch: "This Old House," "Masterpiece Theater," science fiction programs, even Jerry Springer ("You know it's a bunch of crap, you know it's coming, so you deal with it," he said).

He's aware enough to cite a specific new show -- NBC's "Journeyman" -- that he's eager to see. When pollsters asked which new shows people are most looking forward to seeing this fall, only 7 percent could name one.

He's right, television isn't what it used to be. Now instead of being dominated by "safe" comedies generally devoid of original thought, television has transformed into extremely short feature films. The costs for some shows are right up there, $1.5-2 million per episode means the studio is spending as much as $50 million per year to crank out big budget dramas like Lost.

The intricate story lines once thought impossible to sell because of intermittent attentions spans of the audience has become the standard marching orders for new shows. Scripted episodic dramas like House and CSI are being shuffled out the door in favor of highly intertwined season-long puzzles like Lost, Heroes, Battlestar Galactica, and Bionic Woman.

This ain't "This Old House" or "Masterpiece Theater" - those shows are gone and they aren't coming back. As television has shifted toward youth, more intricate stories with boundaries limited only by the amount of skin the FCC will let our poor innocent eyes behold have become the norm. Again, Mr. king is 51. My parents are getting up there in age and they still enjoy many of the shows that I do. My father likes Battlestar, and I know if she wasn't so busy with other things, my mom would totally dig on Heroes.

I think that boils down to how much of your imagination you let rot away as you grow older. With all the "safe" and exceptionally boring content on television during King's and Williams younger years, it isn't a surprise that their minds are closed to real entertainment.

Midwesterners are most likely to think TV shows are getting worse, the poll found. And a startling 85 percent of white evangelical Christians who attend church at least once a week said TV is going downhill.

Startling to whom, someone living in a dungeon for fifty years? Everything is going downhill according to Christians. They are about as reliable a barometer of television quality as a blind man is on the beauty of a painting. They are entitled to their opinions, but their entire life and being is contrary to what makes life and television entertaining in the first place. It isn't that they want alternative entertainment on television that suits their interests, they don't want television to be entertaining at all.

A poll like this is always interesting, yet rarely useful. The people most likely to think "TV is getting worse" are people that are growing old enough that they are probably going to be spending most of their time sitting in a recliners watching TV all day, and are just pissed about it. They are for what it's worth, outside the mainstream when it comes to entertainment. They don't like what's on TV, don't like what's on the radio, and don't like what's in the theater.

Perhaps then the only answer that matters is the one most prominently missing from the poll: What is the real problem here, the quality of TV, or you?


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