Saturday, September 22, 2012

So, Do You Think Television Is Out Of Touch With Much Of America?

Well, duh?!
Of course it is my friends.
I should know since I do live in the Belly of the Beast not just on the Left Coast but within the walls of the so-called entertainment industry.
Tomorrow night, allegedly millions of Americans will be glued to their television sets watching the Emmy awards, the television equivalent to the movie Academy Awards.
Of course this is but an occasion for your humble blogger to go even deeper in the Right View From The Left Coast Bunker.
But reason for this post is an actually interesting little Emmy guide in the Left Angeles Times today. In a way, it pretty much makes the case that these awards, possibly even more so than movies, show an absolute disconnect between the overwhelming majority of American and their television viewing habits and those shows that are even nominated for the Emmys.
Many  of the shows and or genres nominated are on the cable movie networks such as HBO, Showtime and the like.
Nothing wrong with that because some of those shows are very good. Some are marginal. And some suck.
Kind of like regular television, right?
But what really got me thinking was this question asked in the Times article:

What does this tell us about Emmy voters? Isn't there a disconnect between their taste and most Americans'?

The short answer is yes! The long answer is HELL YES!
The person that did answer in the affirmative is one Paul Jankowski, author of a book called "How to Speak American: Building Brands in the New Heartland."
What Mr. Jankowski points out that in the Heartland, better known to the coastals as Flyover Country, people are more likely to watch shows like NCIS or American Idol or reality shows. And this quote kind of says it all:

"The reason the Emmys don't really resonate is that they're not voted on by the people who really watch the shows."

True that.
But the other side of that coin is actually valid.
Gary Carr, senior vice president and executive director of national broadcast at the media agency TargetCast makes a good point. In a way:

"It's not ratings size at all. It's not a popularity contest."

Now to be fair, his comment is based on the Emmys being based on artistic merit. But in the end, it is a popularity contest because it is what Emmy voters believe are the best shows that are nominated.
In other words, it is elite code to suggest most Americans do not like high-brow entertainment.
Hmm, not true.
One of the highest rated shows nominated is the PBS show Downton Abbey, which averages about 5,400,000 viewers per showing. That is probably more than many a program on NBC nowadays. And as more people know about the show, and yes many in the Heartland, if will gain in popularity.
Confession time, dear readers.
I just will no longer, nor have recently, watch any show on PBS nor listen to anything on NPR. For me it is now principle based on not watching any network that depends on government subsidy to remain on the airwaves. Mrs. RVFTLC, a huge Downton fan, has it coming on Netflix and I will watch it then.
But what I believe is that what we are seeing on television today is urban sensibilities being foisted on the rest of the populace.
Tell me something.
Is there any positive show about suburban life, where most of us live, on any television network today? Is there any show that highlights a relatively known suburb in a positive light?
OK, I suppose that the very closest is of all shows The Simpsons. Sure, there is a lot of mocking about Homer Simpson, but he turns out to be a fairly decent dad, loyal to wife Marge and their three perpetually still children, Bart, Lisa and Maggie.
Oh yeah, it is a cartoon.
But look at such shows as Modern Family. Now there is a new one called The New Normal. These two shows look at the actual normal middle-class families as weird and or dysfunctional. And the male homosexual couples as the totally normal ones. And that is another bit of urban promoting of gays and lesbians as the true role models and the straights, well we know that they are just so screwed up, right?!
OK, I won't pick on the homosexuals for it is not the point.
There is another show called Suburgatory.
I think that the title says it all.
It is basically about how just awful it is to have to live in those sterile suburbs where, dammit, everyone is the same, thinks the same, dresses the same. You know, eeeeevvvvviiiiilllll conformity.
Yet the lack of self-awareness on those that mock to middle-class suburban lifestyle is that they too are in lockstep. They all agree on the issues, live in the same elite neighborhoods, dress the same. Except they are supposed to be the more educated. The more worldly-wise that the rest of us Yay-Hoos.
Hey, what about the recently ended show Desperate Housewifes? Was this nothing more than five-years of suburbia-bashing?
Also note that almost every television show takes place in the following cities:
Los Angeles
New York City
Again to be fair, there are shows that take place in Miami, Las Vegas, Seattle.
Oh yeah, none of these towns are in Flyover Country, huh?
The reality is that those who conceptualize, write and produce much of what we see on television in the United States are pretty much of one leftist, urban mindset. They really do not realize nor care about the rest of the nation. The Heartland.
Hence, many of those in the middle of the United States are drawn to such shows as the NCIS and NCIS Los Angeles, Hawai'i Five-O, and a slew of crime dramas. Because they are about the only shows that make an effort to show such seemingly outdated concepts and good and evil. And that there are those that care about the underdog in pragmatic ways. Not in some ideological concept.
And the Emmys are becoming more and more an elitist festival rather than a good cross-section of what is on all of television and realizing that gee, there is a potentially really big audience out there.

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