Musing on Mad Men and TV Trends
Let me introduce you to the blog that is my current obsession: TV by the Numbers.
It’s a media site that analyzes TV viewership by show and by network and calculates the shows’ chances for survival. It’s like TV meteorology—it presents analyses via what I’m sure are complex algorithms and probabilities and whatnot. And if I were watching the Weather Channel for sport, it would be exactly the same. (“Tulsa’s getting that rain! I know it!”)
But really, this is the interesting period for ratings because it’s sink-or-swim time for new shows and bubble shows. Just a couple weeks into the new fall TV season, underperformers are beginning to drop. On Monday I watched a new show called Lone Star at the urging of Linda at Monkey See, but it did not help. Lone Star is officially gone, to be replaced by Glee reruns or something. And now I’m checking TV by the Numbers two or three times a day to see if there are any new axings.
I haven’t been this obsessed with TV ratings since early ’06 when I was jumping onto the Television Without Pity boards every morning to see if Arrested Development was still alive. And then one day, it wasn’t. (RIP Bluth family.)
I’m also enjoying marveling at the relative ratings of shows that I watch and shows that I don’t watch. Mad Men—one of my favorite shows, highly critically acclaimed, three-time Emmy winner!—is on cable, so it does not have ratings that could compare to those of a network show. If it had debuted on Fox three years ago instead of AMC it would have never gotten farther than the pilot. It doesn’t have monstrous ratings for a cable show, either, and that I knew. But I did not know—nor would I have in any of my wildest nightmares guessed—that this past Sunday night, almost twice as many households watched Keeping Up With the Kardashians as watched Mad Men.
Also, I guess I never really understood the monumental popularity of Dancing With the Stars. It seems so cheesy. I know it gets covered in all the grocery store rags (that’s my grandma’s expression, by the way), but I always thought that was an artificial inflation of significance. But look at the ratings this show gets: at any given moment last Monday night, about twice as many people were watching it as ANY OTHER SHOW.
Really, America? Really?
But as much as that news makes me fear for our collective intellects—our ability, as a culture, to embrace something deep and challenging—I’m glad I know it. It’s a necessary perspective on the society I live in. It’s a reminder that I can’t judge the entire world based on my priorities. Something like three-fourths of the people of this country have priorities that are completely different.