Friday, April 15, 2016

THE STATE OF TELEVISION: THE LOUSY STATE OF THE DYING MEDIUM- Yeah, I said it, and I'm sticking by it. IN LIGHT OF RECENT EVENTS.

So, a few months back, I casually mentioned, what I thought was not that an inaccurate an analysis when I said that, quote," This was such a lousy time for television." The people that I was talking to online, they were in my industry, they run a website, they also have podcasts, which I don't but might in the future, and they were shocked at hell by this, 'cause I was the only person they knew who thought so negatively about television. They bring up how, no that there's so many channels and options, and now, they claim there's way more better television now than ever before! That we're in some kind of golden age of television, where there's more quality television around than ever before, and they're just ecstatic about the place television is in at the moment? Honestly, I'm, I guess more of a couple minds in terms of the quality-wise, but to begin with, I'm actually a bit iffy on statements like this, one way or the other. A. the obvious, they're subjective, B. People who usually say things like that, rarely, if ever, have actually gone and looked up an entirety of history of the art form, or even taken closer looks at other time periods, 'cause I think, if we really wanted to just cherry-picked examples from either side, I can just as easily make the argument that this is the worst period in television history. But, let's play it straight for a second, let's play it for a straight for a minute. I would argue, actually that part of the problem is that there are so many good shows that, A. there's no way to ever actually see them all, so half of them get cancelled and no we end binge watching a bunch of shows that, have cult following instead of actually being hit series, and even then, I'd argue most of these shows were painfully average. Yeah, that's the thing, in terms of what some people think of as television, I guess you can say that shows are better, aesthetically, which isn't much as far as I'm concerned, everything's better aesthetically now that it's all on digital, but B. even with this supposed influx of "good television", the fact is that, yeah, some shows are great, but that actually makes some of the decent and even the good shows, well, they look worst. I'm sorry they do. It's an over-saturated market, and when you do that, things that get left behind usually, well, they're good for today, but they're not in the same league as the great shows of today. If anything, the over-saturation of the good and great shows is causing, well, a lot of those shows to, sorta be easy to dismiss. No matter how good a show is, if there's other things on that are better, how good is the show then? Hell, I'd argue for instance, "Veep" and "Game of Thrones" the two Emmy winners from last year, eh, both of them are, good, not great shows, and they're miles away from being the best on television, even within they're genres. Yeah, they're not bad, they're even pretty good, but that's simply not good enough. 

And let's be clear here, when you consider all of television, literally ALLLLLL of television, there's still more crap than ever, so yeah, I don't buy this notion that this is the best era of television. Ironically though, that wasn't entirely what I was talking about when I called this a lousy time for television. You see, I was talking about, how television is dying. Like, literally dying, in that, television might not exist a few years from now. There's a few things that got me thinking about this, for instance, a couple weeks ago, there was an FCC ruling regarding cable boxes, which basically means that, cable companies no longer have to insist that customers purchase/buy their cable box, in order to get their cable, (and not have to buy a new one each time either) and simply have that an option, either use their cable box, or get another one that the company would then use to produce their cable. It's kind of a big deal in one way, and completely irrelevant in another. Yes, this ruling should've happened a long time ago, but is it gonna help the long-term abandonment of cable television to things like Roku and other streaming services? It really shouldn't, but I won't go so far as to say that it's going to completely eliminate cable television. That said though, we talk about television as a whole, but really, as much as there is this talk about how television is getting better and blah, blah, blah, nobody watches television anymore. Streaming is a big reason why, but I don't even blame that entirely, the networks caught onto streaming early, a few of them bought into Hulu, the one that didn't CBS, has their own streaming service, but it's not coincidental that they're the only channel with ratings these days, people actually have to watch those shows when they air. Television is becoming bigger, literally, figuratively, and that's destroying what television. Television, up until now has always been about, the literal "small screen", the one that's in the living room that sends messages and talks to us. That we let into our home, that we observe major events with, etc. etc. But, there's just too many factors going into television right now that's causing fewer and fewer people to watch it as it's originally intended, and the shows reflect that. There are way too many shows that seem to matter more what season a show is in, or come in with a long-planned out over-arching story-line, never mind the fact that they don't even know if people are even gonna be interested to follow this kind of long-form narrative for years, it might not survive the first few episodes, so plan out? 

But then again, why not plan it out? What I recognize as television, just is fading and fading out. It's not even the over-abundance of reality shows, or the lack of influence in the network shows, it's just that, we've outgrown the medium and evolved and expanded upon it so much so that, there's really, no way for it to survive. Call me old-fashioned, but I like the idea that a television show in order to even grab my attention has to be better than a rerun of a show that's already well-established for being great or at least important. But they're all in their own worlds now and that's the other thing, television with all these channels and outlets, yeah, it really is over-saturating, but worst than that, it's causing us to, not know when shows are on or around. I mean, I'm keeping up the best I can, but yeah, I'm missing more and more shows every day, and the ratings say it, nobody's able to do it, and with all the expensive streaming options that's maybe still cheaper than cable, but still not quite inexpensive enough to be able to watch everything at once. What constitutes a "hit show" these days, is pitiful. There will never be a time where the whole country will gather together to watch one thing anymore, there's too many other things to watch, and besides that, nobody knows about all these shows to begin with. If you looked at the ratings for "New Girl" like fifteen years ago, and you were told it was still on the air in, whatever-the-hell season it's in, somebody would've been fired. Television isn't becoming better it's becoming more inclusive and exclusive, people seek out things they think they'll like and they often don't get or see any of the possible shows that they might actually love more if they gave them a chance. Used to be, no matter what crap was the best option available, the television remained on, now that's not the case, and to me, that's specifically why this is such a lousy time for television. 

And, exactly how bad is it for television? Well, the things that's really gonna keep television relevant is it's immediacy. The fact that once something airs on television, it's spread across the world in record time, and the best events for that, are usually things that air, live. And recently, some of you may have missed it, but one of the greatest moments in live television history occurred.



Holy cow, did you see how amazing that was! It's the greatest thing in television. Okay, maybe you need some context, let me show you what happened before.



You see that, that was unbelievable. Greatest television moment ever! Wasn't that amazing. You can watch that a million times and it'll always be great.



 I mean, look at how everybody watching that on TV reacted:





Yeah, everybody was losing their minds and if they were all in shock that they had seen such an amazing moment of television that they didn't know how to react appropriately. Everybody can agree, amazing moment. Even people who were on television, at the time that happened, stopped everything when that happened! That's how great a moment that was!



You see, that's the kind of true greatness that live television can provide, with that kind of immediacy, great moments like that. (In case you're wondering, no, I am not at all bias in any way, this was just an amazing great moment. [Opens package from Amazon, pulls out Villanova Championship T-shirt] just ignore this, I'm putting away clothes while I'm doing this. No, bias, at all. [Obviously sneering, lying grin])

Yeah, this moment was not available for everyone to watch however, which is why you may have missed it actually, they aired it on cable for the first time this year. I've actually complained about this before, you see a couple years ago, CBS "expanded" their March Madness coverage to go across multiple networks, all three of them, cable networks, TBS, TNT and TruTV, they're owned by Ted Turner you'll notice. Here's the blog I wrote at the time:

http://davidbaruffi.blogspot.com/2014/03/march-mundane-ness-why-cbs-is-dumb-for.html

I still have to pretty much make the same complaints about their coverage, although I did find the March Madness Roku app to be quite helpful, so I can't entirely rake them over the coals here, but this was the first year they actually had the Final Four, all three games, including the National Championship, on Cable television. TBS held the national broadcast, and something that, outside of this I kinda like, they had on TNT and TruTV, homer games, where the games were also broadcast there but with announcing and coverage from the perspective of one of the particular teams playing. I actually like that idea, and think that that's actually a good use of this multi-channel broadcasting; I of course, was watching the main TBS broadcast 'cause I don't have a dog in this fight, (Lawyer's note: That's just a boldface lie, he was watching the Villanova coverage) but for fans of particular teams, who have the cable option, I think it's actually a good solid benefit that normally wouldn't effect the main broadcast, so I like that idea.

Now, why would broadcast do this? Sports are literally the only things that actually get the big ratings anymore, pretty much on network, especially championship games and events like these? And CBS, a few years ago, had EVERY NCAA Tournament Game, on their channel. All of them, and now, they're spread over four other channels, why? Well, there actually is a reason for this downgraded of coverage and the ostracizing of fans without cable, like myself, who had to watch the game on his computer and borrowing somebody's cable account. It's in the contract. You see, a few years ago, the rights to the NCAA tournament were up, and CBS was in competition to keep the tournament on it's network, but, they didn't have enough money to pull together, so, they had to seek it out elsewhere and the only way to do that, was to find other channels who were willing to flip the bill, so a call was made to Turner Networks. And in that deal, they had to give up the championship game, every few years to cable. Yeah, they actually don't want this to be on cable either, especially since it is network and it's sports, something that, for all-intensive purposes should be on network television, and it should be national, at least for major games like these. It's in the networks best interests anyway, sports get the highest and biggest ratings of anything, they should be fighting over all the major sporting events every time they're up. But the battle was competitive, and CBS, had to give up complete autonomy to keep it on. Now, I know what you're thinking, that's sad how the broadcast networks are battling with each other over these once-a-year events to stay afloat and have to resort to cable to be able to broadcast events as these, and yes that is sad, and it's a particularly sad state of television, until you realize that, they weren't competing with the other broadcast networks, they didn't put up competing bids. No, they should've been, but they weren't; they were competing with ESPN. Yeah, they were competing with cable. It was damned if they do, damned if they don't situation, so it was an occasional year on cable vs. never on network television again. And that's already happening btw with other major sports, so, this isn't exclusive to CBS, the #1 network in the country at the moment.

(Sigh)

You see what I mean, when I say "television is dying" and that this is a lousy state of television, it's crap like that. The behind the scene stuff that's costing television. (And if you guys don't know about ESPN's part in basically charging cable providers to have ESPN as apart of their service, and how they've boosted their prices more and more year after year, to the point where cable prices have to keep raising their prices to their customers... yeah, ESPN is the worst offender in terms of the cable networks, just so you know) This is the kind of programming the networks should really be striving to keep and instead, like everything else, the quality sitcoms and dramas and in some cases, the quality reality shows, they're all going to cable. No wonder everybody's gone to outside options like streaming.

So yeah, great television moments still happen, but overall, this is a truly lousy time for television right now, and who knows how or how long it's going to survive, but if it's keeps eating itself, and give in to streaming, television is going. But, maybe it's inevitable, and television's one shining moment is just ending soon. I don't know. Honestly, I'm not looking too forward to whatever this new form of television is that's replacing it. I find it overrated, but yeah, let's not look at the few outliers and claim television to be so good, when it reality, it's barely hanging on.

 (BTW, not related to this, does anybody know a good lawyer, I just had to fire mine? No? Well, let me know if you do.)

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