Since the strike ended (feels like three years ago) shows like Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, and House have seen ratings dip. Television people—who are always scratching their heads, every day, it is their whole job—are running around, desperately trying to come up with ANSWERS. Bill Carter ventures to help them in the New York Times today, saying it's serialized story lines that are keeping people away, while The TV Addict wonders if it has anything to do with videogames. What's happening here? Why is everyone tuning out? Find out after the jump.
1) People Forgot What the Hell Was Going On
People are easily confused. Serialized television is hard to understand when you stop in the middle and then start up again on some arbitrary date. In the countless interviews magazines and newspapers have done with actors and other creative types on television shows, many have said things to the effect of "Oh we were just humming along, picking up momentum. It was such a bummer to have to stop." (Desperate Housewives' reinvigorating Dana Delaney storyline comes to mind). When there was nothing left for audiences to see, for an indefinite time, they slowly steeled themselves to cope with the bitter loss. It was time to move on and forget. And that's not easy to undo. It takes time and therapy. This is why comedies have done fine; there's no difficulty jumping right back in. My advice is to just let it be for now, then come back, publicity guns blazing, in the fall. That's what people are used to.
2) Like Adopted Gypsy Children, Viewers Secretly Wanted to Run Away
Many people don't like their addictions (I should know). But you suffer through them anyway because they're a part of you. If cigarettes were to just suddenly disappear one day, unavailable for months at a time, I'd probably quit once and for all. And I'd be happy about it. The same can probably be said for Ugly Betty or CSI. What better time to open a book, take a walk, or, more realistically, ramp up one's porn viewing and knickknack shopping on this creaky old internet? People, I think, were secretly glad for all this extra time in their lives. And now they don't want to cede it back to the glowing box, Dr. House MD be damned. I advise the networks to alter the way they relate viewership to advertisers, at least for the time being. Emphasize the quality and loyalty of the viewers who've stayed on. Everyone else will realize that they were rash and foolish to leave. They'll come crawling back. They always do.
3) Grand Theft Auto
America is a violent and hormonal teenage boy. People want things blown up, and they want them blown up now. I really have no sense of just how big this game is, but the computer and news people are telling me that lots and lots of people are playing it, often until the wee hours, instead of doing their civic duty and watching TV. If you can shoot/rape them yourself, why watch someone else do it on SVU? This, obviously, will blow over, once people beat it or get bored or realize they've been alone for three days and haven't said a word aloud in hours.
Basically, I don't think the nets should be too worried. These are just inevitable post-strike aftershocks. The main thing is to just focus on the fall, while churning out that popcorn reality garbage that people so love in the summer. And hey, CW. While you're at it, why not show some reruns of that summer series from long ago, Young Americans? I really miss that stupid show.