NBC announces its depressing plan to become the network of the lowest common denominator

In an incredibly disheartening interview with Time Magazine, NBC Entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt has announced that in light of the low ratings for uniquely creative and fun shows like Community, the network will focus on making "broad" sitcoms in an attempt to grow its audience. Because what's the point of making good TV shows if no one is watching them, and why not just make tons and tons of unfunny shows that people will watch and then forget about? Good strategy, NBC.

Except all those viewers you think you aren't watching shows like Community, Parks and Recreation, and 30 Rock? All those viewers in that sexy 18-49 demographic? Neilsen isn't reporting them because all that TV watching is happening online. Have you checked your Hulu traffic? Because you might be surprised... No, Hulu is on the computer. That sleek-looking machine sitting on the desk, with the screen. Have one of the interns turn it on for you so you can see what I'm talking about.

Warming Glow points out the obvious blind spot that Greenblatt and other network execs are experiencing when it comes to their ratings: a great deal of TV watching is no longer happening on television -- it's happening on computers, smartphones, other portable devices, and none of it shows up in the all-important Neilsens. The success of all of those critically-acclaimed shows that have become favorites for swarms of passionate fans are not registering in the hopelessly outdated ratings system. And that led to one of the most depressing group of sentences I have ever read in a magazine:

NBC may not have had the hits, but at least it had pride.
This morning at the Beverly Hilton, NBC entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt spoke to introduce the network’s new fall schedule, with a message: NBC can no longer afford pride.

Wow. That's just... Wow. Greenblatt went on to say that while the current lineup that has become such a hit with fans is made up of "great shows," they just "can't find the audience" that they want. You know, the kind of audience that watches The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Man in reliable (and, perhaps, indifferent) droves. Even though the average age of the network that airs those shows, CBS, is becoming increasingly older. As someone who has not only studied pop culture but consumed entertainment and entertainment news for quite a while, aren't networks generally after the younger demographic? Because they generally have more years of TV watching left before they die?

So, NBC would rather make shows that aren't as good as the ones they're currently making, but might make them more money. Rather than stand behind the shows that they're currently making and, I don't know, promote them once in a while.

That won't happen, however, and now we get "broad" sitcoms. Shows with laugh tracks ("Those people are dead!") and heartwarming "special episodes." Probably lots of families and well-to-do folks with Wacky First World Problems. ("Honey, someone switched my Mercedes for a Volt? Wha' happened?") NBC is still trying to find its next Cheers, Seinfeld and Friends, and it's just not going to happen because audiences have moved on and can watch all those shows in syndication anyway. NBC has to adapt, but growing pains (haha, see what I did there?) are rough and costly, and NBC does not want to be the network of the future. They want to be the network of the '90s.

I just pray that Breckin Meyer is too busy with Robot Chicken and Franklin and Bash to star in any of these "broad" comedies, because I don't think I can learn to re-like him all over again after hating him in another bad sitcom. I can only forgive someone so many times.

NBC has decided to stop making great shows like Community [Warming Glow]


  1. So, they’ll keep pushing those shows to USA or SciFi (or the internet) and then complain about the “fragmentation” of the market. Also, they will miss the significance of DVR viewing. Sheesh. I’m squarely in their target demographic and I don’t think there is a single show on NBC that I watch.

    1. You don’t watch Community or Parks & Rec?  You are missing out.  

      But then, it looks like we’ll all be missing out, soon enough.  Dun dun DUN*!

      (* that is the NBC chime sound.)

  2. I thought the lowest common denominator was Fox’ reality shows, combined with their fictional news coverage. It seems like you’d have to go much lower than NBC is attempting to do to get below the standard that Fox has set.

  3. I’m pretty sure these decisions are driven by the business model. And in TVland, that means the only viewers that count are the ones watching the old timey TV way. The network, therefore, can’t use online viewers to boost their ad rates. I saw this explained by one of the SyFy bigwigs, who was explaining why Caprica was cancelled. Until they change the way ad rates are determined, you won’t see this changing anytime soon.

    1.  I imagine this won’t change until the ratings go down on everything with the slow transition of the TV-to-web viewing audience – a process that the media companies are actively trying to slow.

      1. TV execs making decisions based on Nielsen ratings seems analogous to subprime mortgage bond buyers making their decisions based on Moody’s and S&P ratings… bad models cause bad decisions.

        Considering getting rid of my basic cable… network shows are about 30% advertising (10 minutes of a 30 minute time slot)… and I tend to change channels when the ads come on and I end up watching something from Amazon prime instead.

  4. If they would just, you know…get behind those shows and promote them the way they do REALITY SCANDAL CRACK

    However, as far as viewers go, I’m loving the new dually-hipsterlicious “I haven’t owned a television in years…but I do watch Netflix/Hulu/etc. on my computer.”

    1. If I say I own a TV, but only use it for playing NES and it’s not even plugged in right now does that make me more of a hipster or less? …Crap, I bet you’re going to say more. *adds new TV to shopping list*

      1.  I bought a 40″ HDTV to use as a monitor…

        About once a month or so I use the tuner in it.

        Telly fucking bites. I can’t bear it anymore. Some of the programming is great, better than ever, but the fucking. ads… and the whole vibe on the commercial networks is just so infuriating; it’s hell-bent on fostering idiocy.

        Who are these people, who enable and justify this shit? I want to slap all those morons.

        1. We DVR everything, and on the odd occasion watch something “live” and then sit there in frustration, thumb jamming the fast-forward button while we’re forced to watch commercials.

          We’ll even pause it, and watch something else or just leave the room for 20 minutes just to give us enough of a commercial fast forwarding buffer.

          However “they” know we’re doing this, and in some shows the characters will suddenly stop and say “look, I just got this new phone, isn’t it cool”. As if watching Vampire Diaries wasn’t bad enough already!

        2. I watch these shows, if at all, on hulu, which tends to play the same ad over and over until i develop a deep and abiding hatred for that product. “Save moron car insurance” is one of the more frequent ad lines.

    2. However, as far as viewers go, I’m loving the new dually-hipsterlicious “I haven’t owned a television in years…but I do watch Netflix/Hulu/etc. on my computer.”

      I own a television, but I haven’t watched television in years, just movies from Netflix. Unless you want to count me renting Lost In Space. I’m guilty on that count.

      Also, I’m an arrogant, effete, imperious snob. And proud of it, although I suppose that it’s redundant to point that out.

  5. I love Community and I think I might have seen one episode of the first season of Community on TV. God forbid they get accurate ratings to make informed decisions before they piss off their audiences.

    1.  I was recently a Nielsen family and they were only interested in what I watched on TV- channels.

      1.  That might very well be because they have a different way of tracking online viewers.  You know, malware.

      2. online views are tracked server side. It is just a matter of the the service logging the statistics and providing them for ratings.

      3. I was a Nielsen family in the 1990s. You can thank me for all the pro wrestling.

          1. I was in design school at the time.  Wrestling is the perfect thing to have on when you’re drafting or holding your model together while the glue dries.

          2. On behalf of embarrassed SIU-Carbondale alumni everywhere, I’d like to apologize for Dennis Franz, Jim Belushi, and Randy Savage.  (Do we have to claim Jenny McCarthy, since she dropped out?)

    2. Yeah, this is what I was going to say.  Another possibility is that, despite the fact that you and everybody you know seems to love Community (and still likes 30 Rock about half of the time) the digital numbers just aren’t really that big.

      Another piece of info that’s not being discussed here is how expensive are these shows to make.   They’ve got big casts, and each has a star (Chevy, Baldwin), and 30 Rock obvious blows a lot on cameos.

      1. I’m 25; everyone I know who is around my age or younger watches a lot of TV – pretty much exclusively on the internet. And they even go through the legitimate sites that the networks should be capable of counting viewers on, they don’t download from torrent sites (I am the only person I know in real life who does that). It has been that way for at least five years or so.

        Just more anecdotal evidence, sure, but the audience for these shows is enormous. The networks are idiots for not realizing this and trying to figure out a way to exploit it.

      2.  30 Rock’s Cameos generally are paid the least possible under guild guidelines. The people *want* to be on the show.

        Oh and community is a top 5-10 Hulu show when new episodes are actually on. The larger issue is that digital is set up as an adjunct revenue stream, and is poorly monetized (you don’t see much in the way of local ads, or show tie ins).

        Also in NBC’s case in particular they offered a share of revenue  to affiliates to get shows online, but that means that from the networks perspective they need to earn double the per show per viewer online revenue to even get to their traditional per viwer revenue.

      3. They could ditch Chevy and Community wouldn’t lose much. His character isn’t very dynamic and it’d be easy to replace him with some other actor who can play an ironic bigot for less money. Maybe then they could keep the show’s creator and not muck the whole thing up.

      4. All the streaming sites (legal and otherwise) that show the most popular shows (by number of times watched, or number of episodes downloaded) consistently show Community in the top 10.

    3. I agree. I work in media, and you can bet your bottom dollar that I know exactly what our ratings are for all channels, not just the traditional one (in my case radio). 

      The problem comes with how exactly we analyze all of those separate sources and what weight we give to them. But with advertising revenue determined completely from numbers, there’s a very strong incentive to accurately measure audience as accurately as possible. 

      You can bet NBC knows what Hulu traffic they have. They may just make more money from television.

  6. NBC is aiming its programming at people who still watch commercials? I’m shocked!

    As long as advertisers only use the Neilsen ratings, that is what the networks will care about. A bunch of Emmys will not keep a show on the air if the Neilsen families don’t tune in.

    Smart shows generally don’t last. I’m amazed 30 Rock has been on the air this long. 

    1.  All sarcasm aside, it’s hilarious to me that NEW MEDIA is somehow going to replace TV just because it’s what our generation prefers. Commercials pay for TV. PERIOD. Just because people under 35 want to watch TV a different way doesn’t mean the Titanic is going to shift course. The news industry certainly hasn’t figured this out, and for the most part they’re owned by the same old men running the broadcast networks.

      But there’s really two threads here: NBC via Neilsen isn’t paying attention to non-TV viewership (something that is small relative to what networks consider important anyway) and that NBC is going to go after the same business model that has worked great for Fox and CBS.

      Listen folks, if you think broadcast TV networks care f*ckall about quality, you apparently haven’t heard of pay cable dramas. Broadcast networks care about viewers. Emmys and favorable critics’ reviews are for the elitists WHO AREN’T WATCHING BROADCAST NETWORKS ANYWAY.

  7. “Because what’s the point of making good TV shows if no one is watching them, and why not just make tons and tons of unfunny shows that people will watch and then forget about? Good strategy, NBC.”

    NBC is a private corporation that exists to make money. If they can win some critical acclaim and awards while also making money, they’re happy to do that. If their programs get awards but no viewers, they make no money and will cancel them. This isn’t brain surgery. 

    “Have you checked your Hulu traffic? Because you might be surprised… No, Hulu is on the computer. That sleek-looking machine sitting on the desk, with the screen. Have one of the interns turn it on for you so you can see what I’m talking about.”

    You don’t need to be a jerk. Do you really think that network executives aren’t aware of people watching their shows on DVRs and online? Of course they know about it. The issue is that people using DVRs skip ads, and advertisers aren’t willing to pay as much for online ads. There isn’t an easy solution to this. If there were, the networks would have already adopted it. 

    And for the record, I watch Community, 30 Rock, and Happy Endings. I don’t watch How I Met Your Mother, Two and a Half Men, or Big Bang Theory.

    1. “NBC is a private corporation that exists to make money. If they can win some critical acclaim and awards while also making money, they’re happy to do that. If their programs get awards but no viewers, they make no money and will cancel them. This isn’t brain surgery. ”

      My favorite thing ever said about Hollywood is that it’s not a mega money making machine. It really isn’t. It’s like a 100 headed hydra, consisting of 50 totally brilliant heads, 50 completely moronic heads, and no heads in between.

      Having worked at NBC Universal back in 2007-2010, I can tell you that there really is a concern with making great work and making interesting fun shows. Sometimes. And sometimes it’s more about making broad crap that makes money and is monetizeable in different ways (like “bazinga” tshirts or what not). It depends on which executive you talk to on which day and how they’re feeling that moment. It’s this complex chaotic thing.

    2. Thank you for saying this. I was reading all of the comments trying to find someone making exactly this point. I’m not sure why the OP and so many of the commenters believe that the many employees of NBC and the Nielsen ratings company who have their careers and enormous sums of money riding on their ability to determine whether or not their shows are earning enough ad money to be sustainable would be completely oblivious to the fact that people watch TV online.

      Obviously big companies make mistakes just like anyone else (and maybe this will turn out badly for them), but for the original post to lecture NBC and the Nielsen ratings company on demographics and how people watch TV seems arrogant and naive. The folks at NBC certainly know how much money the shows cost to make, they know their overhead expenses, they know how much revenue each show generates from TV ads, and I’m pretty sure they are not forgetting to add up how much money they get from their internet ads, too. The fact that the OP loves Community (and so do I) doesn’t mean that getting rid of it is automatically a bad business decision.

      1. I don’t see any reason to assume that these people realize anything. 

        The music industry made comically bad decisions for years, and people defended them a similar way.  “Oh – it must not be possible to sell lots of music online, or else they’d be doing it.” and “Don’t you think they would have thought of doing that?”  Then Apple came, made a pretty basic (but reasonable!) attempt, and made a lot of money.

        There’s all sorts of ways they could be monetizing this stuff, but they – like the music industry – are deathly scared of change.  This was made painfully clear in the SyFy interview that was here a while ago.  Perhaps this is partially to their credit – I think part of the studio’s problem is they realize that many potential future models for “producing and selling video content” don’t involve a studio at all.

        There’s lots of content I would pay a reasonable amount of money for (or at very least watch ads for), and nobody will take my money because of ridiculous crap they’re too scared to change. 

        1. I’ll certainly concede that the music industry made huge mistakes regarding online business and that they are paying for it. But I think that sort of thing is the exception rather than the norm; otherwise these massive companies wouldn’t still be around.

          More importantly, even if they monetized online viewing as much as they possibly could, I still don’t see why cancelling shows like Community would necessarily be a bad business decision for them. I think the set of people who would watch “broad” sitcoms is probably much bigger than the set of people who enjoy really quirky sitcoms that often use obscure references (side note: remember when Community devoted most of an episode to an excellent parody of My Dinner with Andre? Hanging most of an episode’s jokes on a single, obscure movie is bound to make for a small audience.) Regardless of how they monetize they online/TV viewers, it’s better to do it with a larger number of viewers.

          1. Hanging most of an episode’s jokes on a single, obscure movie is bound to make for a small audience.

            Thank God for syndicated shows like Xena: Warrior Princess who can do an episode that’s a musical based on the Rider-Waite Tarot.

  8. BBC has some good shows you can get on iTunes: Sherlock, Extras, Downton Abbey. Then there’s Game of Thrones and Falling Skies, maybe even Alphas. Haven’t found any other decent shows at all though, I just use iTunes for everything myself.

    1. Speaking of brilliant BBC shows, one the the “bad show” links given near the end of the article is to the US remake of Coupling. The original BBC version is brilliant, however. (Incidentally, it’s also written/created by Steven Moffat – the guy responsible for Sherlock and the current Dr. Who.)

      1. Coupling. The original BBC version is brilliant

        Seconded! It’s bloody brilliant, and great fun too. (Bummer it had such a short run.)

  9. But Hulu can easily track viewers directly.  It’s really kind of inconceivable that the networks don’t know what those numbers are.

    Yet ANOTHER piece of the puzzle is how much one can possibly make with Hulu ads.  It seems to deliver fewer overall minutes of ad time and what you see is hardly the blue chip clients (lots of Geico, booze, etc.)

    (Meant to be reply to sarahnocal.)

    1. Yes Hulu does have fewer ads.  Which is good, because I wouldn’t bother with it if it had as many as cable TV.  But they could boost per-ad revenue if they got smart and targeted ads better, which is possible with an internet-based service.  Sell advertisers on the idea that their ads are being viewed by people that might actually buy their products and they might be willing to pay more.  Isn’t that what Google and Facebook do?

      And are Nielsen ratings taking into account DVRs?  Back when I had cable TV I almost never watched ads because I prerecorded everything.  And I know a lot of people like that; only exception being live sports.  I actually watch more ads now with Hulu then I used to, even though I only watch about a quarter as much tv as I used to.  

      How are advertisers dealing with this? I get the feeling it’s the emperor’s new clothes and no one in advertising, network tv or cable providers want to admit that no one watches ads anymore.

  10. 30 rock is on it’s last year.  Community and Parks and Recreation are constantly on the edge of cancellation.  The Office has pretty much jumped the shark. 

    Once those are gone, what else is there that’s not the same old, stale, laugh track ridden crap?  Modern Family, on ABC.  Raising Hope, on Fox. That’s about it.

    Yet drivel like The Big Bang Theory is pulling huge ratings???

    Damn, I wish I was a Nielson household.

    1. My family was a Nielson household once, when I was a teen.  I marked all the booklets to indicate that all of our t.v.s were pretty much continuously tuned to I Spy and Mr. Ed on Nick at Nite.  

      Just trying to do my part for good t.v., you know.  

    2. I thought Big Bang Theory was really rather good the first few seasons. I can never relate to sitcom characters, and while that’s not the only reason I don’t like most sitcoms, it doesn’t help. Sitcoms are obviously designed so that everybody can relate to at least one of the characters, to draw you in.

      Big Bang Theory was the first show with the classic sitcom format where I could really relate to the characters – they captured a lot of things about socially inept university scientists, of which I am (or, was) one, really well (exaggerated, obviously). 

      Then it got really popular and they dumbed it down big-time. The past two seasons are disgraceful, with maybe a handful of good moments.

      Note that I don’t count shows with a free-roaming-camera format (including Community and Freaks & Geeks for example) as classic sitcoms, I’m talking about Friends and How I Met Your Mother type shows – the shows that draw huge audiences but are inevitably laugh-track drivel. I do like Seinfeld.

  11. Probably has alot less to do with them not knowing about online and allot more to do with the fact that online add revenue is exceptionally low.

    When somebody finally figgures out a succesfull business model that works a la cart, as it currently doesn’t, then TV will become good and watchable again.

    1. Probably has alot less to do with them not knowing about online and allot more to do with the fact that online add revenue is exceptionally low.

      Online ad revenue is low because the numbers are real numbers.  You can actually count how many people visit your show on Hulu or come to your website to watch it.  Those are real numbers and they are quite small.

      Neilsen ratings work on statistical models built on old assumptions of how many people are watching TV at a given time.  So if 1 person is watching this show that counts as X people watching it.  This is about the only way you can actually get an estimate of who is watching what in the old broadcast model, and you can build some really complex models to try to make it work out well, but it isn’t giving you THE NUMBERS the way internet download counts do.

      So what you get with Neilsen ratings is an inflated count of the people watching your show vs. an actual count of the people downloading your show.  The numbers for downloaders are always going to look anemic by comparison.

    2.  Revenue is just based on perceived value.  There is some research, but for the most part advertisers think people sit their on their couches and watch commercials and don’t do the same online.     Which is why I watch most of my shows on Premium channels where I am paying for the contents production, and not the perception of Charmin Toilet paper executives that I am watching in such a way that I will consume their ad.

  12. NBC isn’t “oblivious” to the online numbers, they don’t care about them. Why don’t they care? Because ADVERTISERS don’t care. Advertisers pay based on Nielsen TV ratings because that’s where their ads are being placed.

    If / when online ad revenue starts to compare to what TV ad revenue pulls in this will all change, but not before then.

    1. So the question is, Are advertisers undervaluing online ads?  and are the networks selling the value of internet ad-space?

    2. Umm … actually advertisers do care about online viewers, they love them in fact. They love the fact that they are actually paying for quantifiable views. The problem is that those views don’t come anywhere close to the numbers that broadcast gets (and that number is shrinking). So the networks don’t make anywhere near the revenue from online as from broadcast. Advertisers see online as a big value, networks see it as a looser.

  13. This is a positive development. I was growing confused by the presence of an actual, great show (Community) pulling itself from the slime of a major network. Now, all is well with the universe once again. Network teevee sucks, as god intended. 

  14. Well, at least they’re bringing Grimm back for another season. Or at least they’d better be. They promised. And after the cliffhanger ending of the last season if they don’t bring it back there will be great wailing and gnashing of teeth in my house.

  15. I’ve been in England 5 years now and though I’m sure there are indeed a few funny shows in the States – and I do try to watch one or two here now and then – Brit telly humour has pretty much ruined me for the American aesthetic.  Psychoville and Peep Show put the nails in the coffin.

  16. Ads don’t pay on the internet.

    Revenue per viewer is in the single percentile digits compare to traditional television.

    If you watch a show on the internet instead of television, you’re decreasing your power to keep it on the air by at least a factor of 10.

    If you want what you watch on the internet to matter, figure out how to get advertisers to pay as much for online ads as they do for television ads.

    Or better yet, figure out how to get people to pay for the shows directly and cut out the advertising.

    While your at it, do the same thing for Journalism.

    1.  And this responsibility falls to the viewer for some reason? Perhaps the networks might want to take a crack at your suggestions.

      1. It should be obvious that there are more brilliant people on this forum than there are at the major television networks, which is why I posed the question here :)

        1. Excellent point, but if I’m going to be solving their epic, self-induced problems, I’ll be needing some six figure remuneration.

    2. So, when a commercial comes on TV, I watch it.  When a commercial break comes on Hulu, I watch it.  What’s the difference?  Actually, I tended to pay more attention to the ad breaks on Hulu as apposed to TV when they were shorter commercials.

      But, then again, I got tired of all the restrictions the corporate idiots kept putting on which shows I could watch. I would just get the torrent and the morons lost everything because all the commercials were gone entirely.

      These tools are tripping over dollars to pick up dimes.  In the meantime, I’m circumventing their moronic restrictions alltogether for the most part.

      I think this is yet more evidence that many rich corporatists are victims of inbreeding and their brains are slowly rotting away.  If it wasn’t for their rich families and childhood connections, they’d be absolutely screwed.

      1. It’s an interesting question as to why advertisers are willing to pay so little for online advertising… 

        I would guess that people are much more likely to open a new browser tab or mute commercials on the computer than they are on television, or at least that advertisers fear that they will.

        The real problem is that advertising is the pseudo-est of pseudo-sciences wherein no one really knows how much an ad-view is worth. They’ve got some really complicated metrics that the entire industry is based on for television, but the internet is seen as non-equivalent and they aren’t willing to gamble very much on it at present.

    3. One thing Hulu can do is target ads better.  Advertisers will pay more if they know their ads are going to people that might actually buy their products.  This is how Google and Facebook  make so much money.

      Hulu has an option to vote “yes” or “no” if an advertisement is relevant to me.  This is a start, but it doesn’t seem to working yet, otherwise why do they still push Disney ads on me when I don’t have kids, don’t want to go there, and have repeatedly voted the ads down?  Encouraging me to log onto Hulu would help too; usually I don’t bother logging back in when Hulu logs me out closing the browser (come on guys, it’s not like you need to protect my bank acct info or anything–leave me logged in!).  That way you can collect more specialized info on me and sell it to everyone like Google and Facebook.  

      They could improve online profitability if they would put some work into it.  

      1. That’s certainly true, but part of what’s keeping the price down is the relative price paid for targeted ads on google and facebook (very, very little). When advertisers see how little is paid for those ads, they’re very hesitant to pay absurdly high television-level ad prices. 

        There’s been a sudden explosion in the amount of targeted advertising “real-estate” available (with the advent of web browsing) and a drop in price commensurate with the increase in supply. So in spite of the fact that the ads are better (more targeted), they’re still far cheaper because of the glut. 

        It’s as if you lived in a tiny island paradise and have just discovered the continent next door. Even the really nice spots on the new uninhabited continent are going to be comparatively cheap for a good long while until you finally begin to crowd it. 

        Google and facebook make money because their traffic is (literally) incomprehensibly high. If you don’t have any kind of tested metric for determining how much more valuable a broadly-themed, expensive to produce, 30 second spot on hulu is, compared to an ultra-targeted (cheap to produce) facebook ad,  you’re going to be really hesitant to pay much more to run it.

        But don’t worry, as soon as our browsing history, credit card transactions and personal feelings are finally agglomerated into usefully-linked databases, we can turn marketing from a pseudo-science into a real one and actually figure out how valuable any given ad-view is. 

        The real price we pay for google and facebook will be that we’ve helped give birth to the proper science of marketing. Honestly, I’d rather be responsible for unleashing Mecha-Hitler on the world.

  17. Wait a second. Surely NBC and so ons understand that people phase out TV’s and so on. That the online viewing market represents part of their ratings math? They don’t only go by nielsens right? That is simply and obviously not a correct equation.

  18. This article contains a common non-sequitor: that television or the news media, which are outlets for specialized advertisements, should try to make the most critically acclaimed theatre so that people will seek them out.

    The people who seek out good television shows or incisive reporting are not people who buy pointless consumer products. The people who are watching terrible reality shows and footage of the latest missing white woman because they have *nothing better to do*, on the other hand, are wonderful targets for advertisement.

    You can stick your well-written and critically acclaimed media up your consumer reports reading, online price-checking ass.

    1. Hah!

      That’s fundamentally true, the only thing that mitigates (as others here have pointed out) it is the fact that occasionally clever, creative people are willing to expend an incredible amount of energy for some fleeting authority in the programming department.  

      But yes, in the long run, they must always hew toward the shows that will garner viewers who will give the most cash to advertisers in exchange for the lowest outlay from said advertisers. This, it should be said, is not at all necessary to have a sustainable business model, but if your mission doesn’t concern much outside of your margin, it’s probably the way to go.

      So yes, if you don’t love buying lots of stuff that you don’t need and/or you are savvy about who you give your money to and how much you get in return, what you like to watch on television does not really matter to anyone.

      It would be lovely if someone could actually come up with an ad-free, a la cart payment system.  I wonder how much an individual viewing of a show like Community or 30 Rock would have to cost in order to put ad-free online views in the same revenue category as regular television views. Though, if the answer is more than 99 cents, it will probably never happen, so maybe I don’t want to know…

    2. Well, they can still make watchable TV without assuming their audience consists entirely of imbiciles.  Then again, Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica turned out to be such stinkers, and Sherlock is such a dismal failure, why bother?

  19. Long ago there was a program called Continental Classroom. Look it up. Watch Mr. Wizard brought a lot of youngsters into careers in science. Today TV is about milking the cow. Odd to think that TED early on thought to get some talks on TV. No Way. Now they are a monster with demos the nets can only dream about. TV just drags its anchor in the mud.

  20. Funny- the only network TV I watch(ed) is (was) Community, 30 Rock, and Parks and Rec… on hulu and netflix of course! :)

    It is almost unbearable for me to listen to the hens in the cubes next to mine talk about who got kicked off of “Dancing”.

    1. If you aren’t spending as much money on cheap crap as the “hens”, then what you want to watch simply doesn’t matter. 

      “Cash Hen” doesn’t have the same ring to it, but you get the idea.

  21. I’m currently hooked on ABC Family…well not the teen drama shows.
    I do particularly like Melissa & Joey, probably because I grew up with them the first time around, and the entire show is more or less like something out of the mid 90’s (which personally I think is a good thing).

  22. With a little luck, the internet will wreck poorly-run, inefficient networks the same way it destroyed the big music labels, democritizing the entertainment processs. It’s a whole new world, kids…

  23. Community, 30 Rock, Parks & Recreation are bad. Even Friends was bad. Even the first Simpsons was bad. Cosby Show, now that was funny. Cheers. Do you remember when TV was funny? It’s been a while.

    1.  “Do you remember when TV was funny?”

      We all suffer from selective memory.  Even during the days of Cosby and Cheers, there were a TON of other crappy, unfunny shows that we’ve banished from our minds.  We tend to only remember the good stuff.

    2. Cop Rock, Blossom, Small Wonder, Joanie Loves Chachi, The New Odd Couple, Gimme A Break, The Pink Lady and Jeff, and Three’s a Crowd

      Do you remember when TV was unwatchable?

  24. While the term “broad comedy” might indeed mean dumbed down humor, there’s nothing inherent in the classic multi-camera sitcom format that deserves such scorn. It’s just a format. It’s like hating an entire house because of the color of the paint (I watch a lot of House Hunters). The content is what’s important. Just because the single camera comedy is newer and trendy, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily better. I’m already sick of mockumentary style camerawork. Some of the best comedies I’ve ever seen are multi-camera sitcoms: The IT Crowd, Black Books, Father Ted (all Linehan), Newsradio, Seinfeld, Lucky Louie, etc. While the laugh track might seem hacky to some, often the laughter actually comes from a live audience. On those shows, the immediate feedback from real people makes a huge difference in the actors’ performances and how the material is written. Imagine doing stand-up comedy without laughter. Some day, single camera shows are going to seem played out and cliche, too. And then we’ll all jump onto the classic sitcom revival bandwagon.

  25. All those programs you wrote about I have no idea of nor have I ever seen one.  Same with the worse messes on the other channels, including most of satellite.  They should try a docu-style drama like the fishermen ones, but being about Himbo and Bimbo Metrosexual and their problems getting just the right shade of lilac for the powder room.  Would fascinate the arriviste set.  They could sympathize.  And then do a gay one just to show how normal gays are, and how contentless you can make a program and still keep your actors from walking out.   The television networks, including most of the ones on satellite, seem determined to become self-extinct. Their audience fell over from boredom or went into another room to play.  And then to add insult to injury, when I try to watch a ‘tv’ program on the computer there are all kinds of obstacles in my way, some times having to submit a biography with my shopping preferences.  The only one harder to tune in to than NBC is PBS, believe it or not.  I no longer listen to music from NPR because their method of getting there is so archaic. I think I have never been successful in watching a tv program from them on the computer.   Hey, folks, this is the last chance we get for young folks to rejuvenate our culture and civilization.  As an old person I am totally bored with old folks stuff as offered.  And young folks stuff done by old people.

    1. Maybe not, but anyone watching it instead of the other crap out there does.

      It’s a fine, fine show.

  26. More evidence that the MSNBC merger was a disaster.

    Is it just me or does this smell like Microsoft’s “Last to Cool” policy in which they cede that they won’t be the innovators on the market, so long as they make a profit.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t been working out so well for them as the iphone, a single product line, raked in more money than all of Microsoft’s products last year.

  27. Why are you people even putting so much thought into this stuff?

    All the shows on NBC are banal, pandering dogshit.

  28. I wonder if desirable demographics change w/the faltering economy?

    18 year old kids can’t find jobs, have no money to spend, etc… maybe 34-49 is the new 18-34? Or so I’d like to tell myself.

  29. Then there’s the issue of how much longer we’re going to subsidize broadcast television by providing them with bandwidth. Surely, it would be better used by municipal and regional high speed broadband providers.

  30. Heck, I’m over 50 and addicted to lots of shows (community being one of them) and I have not watched a tv outside of a bar in about a year. How out of the loop can these guys be?

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