I hear a lot of talk about how television as we know it is threatened or, “under attack”. Apparently people are leaving cable in droves and opting for streaming services. Ratings are down on many television programs/networks, and often, I hear that my generation is to blame (because Millennials ruin everything, duh). But I don’t think its as simple as blaming any particular demographic, or even finding fault in new technology. I think the problem is far more complex.
The other day I was debating whether or not I wanted to watch the new episode of a show I have been dedicated to for years. Lately, I had found myself feeling underwhelmed by the program and I didn’t feel any excitement or urge to tune in. I had missed two episodes in a row, something my TV loving, neurotic brain very rarely does. I know I’m only a blip in the data, but abandoning a show makes me feel guilty. I get attached to characters, but it’s more that I feel bad for the actors. If I stop watching, will the ratings drop and result in cancellation? Somehow I seem to think that I am the only viewer standing between a bunch of actors and unemployment (apparently I have a lot of power).
Abandoning a show does not come easy to me. It is not a decision I make lightly. Yet, I have found myself doing so with more frequency lately. I’ve noticed that the shows I’ve broken up with have all been from the same genre: drama. I wondered if perhaps my tastes have changed… but I don’t think that’s entirely it. I still love dramas and watch many.
I wondered if my tastes were being influenced by the drama we are witness to on a daily basis through politics and rising conflict in our society.
I like my television to be entertaining and give me an escape from reality, so I think that might be a plausible reason for my shifting interests. Last year I decided to stop watching Grey’s Anatomy after watching since the beginning. My decision was two fold: 1) I felt the show had drifted from its roots a bit too much for my personal liking, and it felt like an entirely different show, and 2) I found that sometimes the drama on the show triggered my anxiety. Television is a form of entertainment for me, but also comfort and it just wasn’t working for me anymore. Like I said before, abandoning a show isn’t a casual decision for me – sometimes I still feel guilty for abandoning those characters after fifteen years…I think I’m a bit too sensitive.
Coming back to politics, part of why I stopped watching Madam Secretary was because it just didn’t feel like an escape from reality anymore.* I know it’s just a TV show, but I think I’m feeling a bit burned out and really don’t have the capacity for a show revolving around politics. My mother can watch and re-watch The West Wing and finds it a nice escape, and honestly I don’t know how she does it. I don’t think I could watch a show with a functioning government right now. That’s just too much of a tease.
*I also was really bummed when Nadine (Bebe Neuwirth) left. I sort of struggled with the show ever since.
Sometimes it’s not about abandoning a show as much as a show getting the ax. When CBS cancelled Scorpion, I was honestly relieved. I had been watching from the first episode and the show took a real nose dive in its final season. I found myself watching because I felt I *should* rather than because I wanted to, and I wondered why the network had been giving the show so much attention when it really wasn’t doing it anymore. Who decides which shows to give resources to and which to ignore? Can I have that job??
Then of course, there is the opposite – when the network cancels a show you LOVE. CBS did this with Superior Donuts last year. I’m sure that the main clincher for the show was ratings, which is where I start to find fault with the network, rather than anything the show might have done or not done. The way they pick and choose which shows to promote, the way they constantly hack up the schedule and move shows around repeatedly… is it any wonder that people aren’t watching the way they used to? I miss when CBS had a real good comedy block on Monday nights. Now they’ve got comedy all over the place and it’s constantly being moved around for sporting events. *eye roll*
The worst might be when they take a show off the schedule entirely and put it on in the summer or mid season. I was so bummed when they banished Elementary to their summer schedule. It seems though, that despite their best efforts to kill the show, that it has continued to do well. Unfortunately there are rumors that next season will be the last. I don’t like to give in to rumors, but I have a feeling that this time they aren’t wrong. It’s such a good show, and I love it so I guess all signs point to a cancellation? It’s probably a bad idea to ever get attached to Sherlock Holmes.
Shows come and go, and if you’ve been a fan of a long-running show that has gotten the ax, it’s never a great moment. However, I feel a lot better when its a writer or actor decision (The Big Bang Theory is a good example, though I’m still sad about it!!), rather than a network one.
There’s really no particular point I’m trying to make with this post, it’s just something I’ve been thinking of lately and I thought I’d put it out there. Surely someone else can relate?? There’s often a lot of discussion about how television is “dying” and I don’t think its quite that simple. I think what’s on offer has a lot to do with how successful television can be, especially when its competing against streaming platforms. What do you have to offer me as a viewer? I’ve found myself watching ABC a lot more than I used to because they have comedies that have drawn me in (Blackish for example – I’m so sorry that I was so lately to the game on this! It’s so good!). CBS on the other hand seems far more focused on action and dramas. Like I said, I still enjoy this genre, but I am much more likely to try out and commit to a sitcom than anything else, and I fear that the sitcom is disappearing from Television. I can’t be the only one who enjoys this genre??
The landscape of television entertainment is definitely changing. I suppose part of me doesn’t like it because I’m a bit nostalgic for the past (hello 80s/90s sitcoms!), and I’m not particularly fond of change. But I also feel like it’s changing so much that I wonder what television will become. Will it dwindle down to news and reality television (that would be VERY unfortunate)? I’m interested to know what others think on this!!
- Do you have Cable, or are you only watching TV through streaming platforms?
- What show(s) on Television do you LOVE right now?
- What show(s) are you still not over being cancelled?
- What do you think the future of television will look like?
Okay, if you made it this far, thanks for following along with my rambling rant. I swear there’s a point or two in there somewhere… tell me your thoughts in the comments, and as usual, you can always follow me on twitter for more TV induced commentary. @hermionebenson