If it’s not broke… The Networks will Fix it

Thanks to Min for sending this in!

If it’s not broke … the networks will fix it

Jason Sykes
The U. of Washington Daily

I like helium. A lot.

When I was younger – like at my cousin’s fifth birthday party last
summer – I occupied myself for hours sucking the sweet nectar out of a
purple Barney’s Party helium balloon. But I didn’t just want its
voice-altering properties. No, I was fascinated by this mystical element’s
ability to enable a simple earth-bound balloon to flaunt the laws of
gravity.

Like most children, I imagined I could harness this magnificent power if
I could just get my hands on enough of these polyurethane anti-gravity
machines. My experiments, however, had the same melancholy pattern of dismal
failure: Gather an impressive stockpile of balloons, then lose them all
reaching for just one more and cry incessantly until a nearby adult bought
me another one to restart the cycle.

Unlike most of the narcissistic exercises in nostalgia I subject you to,
this one has a point: All children are greedy little bastards incapable of
learning even by elementary trial and error.

Which leads me to the conclusion that all network executives are
children.

How else could anyone explain the phenomenon known as “midseason
rescheduling”?

Each year at about this time, networks look at the season-to-date rating
sheets and see a slew of mixed results – some shows are pulling in solid
ratings, while others are being outpointed by UWTV’s rebroadcast of last
Friday’s Math 308 lecture. This sets off a frenetic rejiggering of the
weekly lineup, and the scrambled schedule that emerges leaves hordes of
loyal viewers baffled, and renders hours of meticulous VCR programming
worthless.

Anything new that doesn’t suck is at serious risk of being uprooted from
its posh midweek primetime slot and thrown to the TV wastelands. They call
it growing the network. I call it idiotic.

In theory, the audience will follow the show to its new night and give
the network another strong time slot.

But television junkies are creatures of habit. If a new show is doing
surprisingly well, it probably has less to do with quality programming than
with the simple fact that it fits nicely into our pre-established viewing
pattern. And moving it is like trying to reel in a fish before the hook’s
been properly set – we’re going to break free and wriggle off to a calmer
part of the pond.

This sort of mindless corporate behavior either permanently stunts or
simply kills several shows each year. Can anyone tell me when The Family Guy
is on? What about Third Rock From the Sun? Offered up to the bottomless
belly of the ratings-hungry beast known as the bottom line.

This year’s sacrificial lamb is the WB’s Roswell. The critically
acclaimed diaper dandy enjoyed passable ratings as the follow up to Dawson’s
Creek on Wednesday nights. But it recently lost its slot to last year’s Frog
phenom, Felicity, whose Monday timeslot pulled in an average rating that
made my GPA look good in comparison.

Roswell’s fans are a peculiar lot. They’re ’70’s Trekkies time-warped
ahead a couple decades. There are dozens of chat rooms and newsgroups
devoted to the show (which at its peak drew only about a 4.0 rating), and
the consensus emerging from the Net is that the WB needs to be taught a
lesson. The learning instrument involved? A proposed boycott of all WB shows
other than Roswell. When Felicity fans (a Net-savvy group themselves) got
wind of this plan they vowed a retaliatory strike.

The battle began last week, and although I like Roswell better, I’m
rooting for mutually assured destruction here. Maybe that will finally open
the network war mongers’ eyes.

Until then I’ll be in the back with the helium.