Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Worst Ever TV Season

Believe me when I tell you this is turning out to be the worst ever TV season.
And I should know. This is my 40th anniversary as TV critic and of the hundreds of bad TV series I've so far previewed some of the very worst are popping up this year.
Believe you me it was so much easier in 1970-71 when there were only 10 channels to cover.
That year I made my first trip to L.A. and got on the sets of such instant classics as Mission: Impossible,The Brady Bunch, Here's Lucy and Emergency.
I remember the day an NBC publicist drove me out to Sherman Oaks for high tea with Julie London. Her beauty was dazzling up close, I can report.
I also had lunch in the Paramount Commissary with Peter Graves who remained a dear friend over the decades.
In 1972 I interviewed Bill Macy on the set of Maude just before it went on the air.
And CBS ace publicist Betty Lamm had me go to a Belgian restaurant on the Sunset Strip to interview Loretta Swit just before her new series M*A*S*H debuted to become an instant classic.
This year what's new and exciting and different? Beats me.
And what TV stars would I rush to interview in L.A. these days? Sorry, I can't think of a single name.
My conclusion: American network TV has lost it.
Canadian TV never had it. Let's be frank about that.
Now the American sources I talk to say the overnight ratings are pretty meaningless these days unless DVD viewers get factored in.
Don't get me wrong --dismal overnights for Lone Star were bad enough to sink that terrible series.
You see the overnights are tracking an audience that is disappearing. One day only old viewers like yours truly will sit down to watch network TV.
The rest, the significantly younger, will watch at their leisure because they've recorded it.
And don't forget something like Mad Men gets multiple viewings during its first week. That's why overnights for many trendy cable series from Mad Men to True Blood are so anemic. In some cases a majority of viewers watch later, in some cases weeks later.
One geek up the street has a device that gives a false internet address so he can tune into Hulu which so far is supposedly banned in Canada. Only it isn't if you now how to get in the back door.And Hulu is doubling its viewership every six months.
Does this explain why network TV is now so dog awful?
Not really. But the shift in audience to cable means old line networks take fewer risks. There are no more TV movies on U.S. network TV and a successful TV movie could be spun out into a series. No more --presentations are the norm meaning more bad series get on the air.
Now the rush is on to forecast the next new series to crash and burn.
Will it be ABC's My Generation --network sources hint it is toast.
Another ABC series The Whole Truth is going, I think, it lost half the audience of Cougar Town and Wednesday night faces off against NBC's new Law & Order: Los Angeles.
Others destined to collapse into the TV sink hole: Fox's Running Wilde, NBC's revamped The Apprentice, NBC's Outlaw, CW's Life Expected.
You'll notice not a single CBS title is out there. But CBS also has the oldest viewer base (average age is 57 years and counting).
Like I say, worst TV season ever.

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