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The Expansionist
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
 
Tedious Nation
When was the United States seized by monomania? Why are we endlessly assailed by double showings of television programs, even triple showings, quadruple showings, and more? When did marathons and "binge" programming take over television? This Thanksgiving, Antenna TV is going to show 54 episodes of the ancient, half-hour family sitcom Leave It to Beaver! That's right, not just 24 hours, but 27 hours of ONE show! 27 hours! When did this country's television programmers lose their minds?
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As I write, Grit TV is showing 8 episodes of Zane Grey Theater, four full hours of a mediocre WESTERN series. This is not 1950. Modern Americans HATE Westerns, but they are all over the tube, because there is an enormous stock of them from the 1950s, presumably available extremely cheaply to fill air time.
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TVGuide.com actually put up an article titled "Here Are 51 Marathons You Can Watch Over July Fourth Weekend"! 51! That is insane and abusive, and reveals a country in very deep trouble. Every couple of weeks, there is another marathon, or binge showing: the 50th anniversary of the date when the sitcom about witches, Bewitched, started to air. A comparable marathon to celebrate the (crappy and annoying) genie-themed sitcom I Dream of Jeannie. Each weekend, the new network Decades shows two full days of one program in what it forthritely calls a "Binge". Why?
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Even the ordinary daily schedule of multiple channels shows two, three, even four episodes in a row, of Murder, She Wrote (one at 3:00pm, a second at 4:00pm, and on either or both of Monday and Friday evenings, two or three more, from 8:00pm to 11:00pm. Likewise, the same channel, Cozi TV, shows two episodes in a row of Miami Vice, but some days there are FOUR in a row. Almost the entire schedule of Laff TV, except for movies, comprises two episodes of every show. And on and on, channel after channel. Why?
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In NYC, Everbody Loves Raymond airs twice a nite, at 1:00 and 1:30am on local station WPIX. Almost the entire schedule of Antenna TV comprises double half-hour episodes. Starting at 6:00am, these double-episode shows are The Jack Benny Program (6-7am); Mr. Ed (7-8am); Father Knows Best (8-9am); Hazel (9-10am); Dennis the Menace (10-11am); Leave It to Beaver (11am-12noon); Bewitched, 12-1pm); I Dream of Jeannie (1-2pm); Green Acres, 2-3pm; Three's Company, 3-4pm; Mr. Belvedere, 4-5pm — you get the picture. The ENTIRE schedule is double episodes of old shows.
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Similarly, the entire schedule of Ion Life is doubles, at least five days a week. Worse, its companion network, Ion Television, shows 16 HOURS A DAY of the same show, or related shows, such as the "Law & Order" franchise of several related shows devoted to CRIME as entertainment, alternating with other hideous, immoral crime-oriented melodramas, such as NUMB3RS, Criminal Minds, Blue Bloods, and the Canadian wannabe-American crime drama Flashpoint. Ion Television's motto could be "All Crime, All the Time". Grotesque.
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Morality aside, my main point is that all this appalling, unrelenting repetition of TV shows means that within a very short time, even the most useful of programs, such as Neat (which offers ideas for household reorganization), will be so infuriatingly repetitive that no one will consent to sit thru them.
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How can today's programmers be so STUPID as to use up ALL the episodes of a given series not just twice as fast as they were intended to be shown but TEN TIMES as often as they were intended to be shown? The typical season of programs produced in the last 20 years or so has been 22 episodes. At ten a WEEK, even if they are not shown on the weekend, an ENTIRE SEASON is used up in 2½ weeks. Then regular viewers will be inundated by reruns they remember all too well, so they TURN OFF and look for something they haven't seen. Worse, the standard season is being REDUCED to as few as 13 or 14 episodes. Thus everything is shown more often, and fewer and fewer episodes are created. So regular viewers will soon be disgusted at endless repetitions.
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When did TV programmers lose their minds? TV became a national habit due to regularity of scheduling and the offer of new entertainment every week. Summer reruns cost the networks viewers, so broadcasters had to discontinue airings of reruns during the summer and create entirely new schedules during the period when schools are out.
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Are programmers so absurdly retarded that they think that viewers (a) do not remember something they saw a month ago or (b) are so lazy that they won't so much as PUSH A BUTTON on their remote control to change channels to end the abuse they would suffer if they left their sets on the channel they had been watching? How many people forget a TV episode within a month? How many people are content to sit and watch a program every detail of which they remember, rather than change channels in disgust? It may be possible for a small fraction of an audience to watch a few programs more than three times without becoming disgusted (say, I Love Lucy or Everybody Loves Raymond), but that is not the case with most programs. If they can remember the plot and even significant parts of the dialog, by far most people will look for something else to entertain them. How can today's programmers not know that?
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Apparently, programmers today believe that Americans are uniformly feebleminded. But who is really feebleminded, the general American television audience, or the programmers who hold them in contempt? It is never wise to hold in contempt the people you want to do business with, because most will sense that contempt, and walk away.
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Plainly, today's programmers think that the American television audience is retarded monomaniacs, who can be abused endlessly without rebelling. I hope they're wrong. But many people have TV on in the background while they are doing other things than watching attentively, such as doing housework; cooking; checking email, social media posts, entertaining short videos, and other distractions, so do not remember what they have just seen. If so, those Americans can quite properly be called "scatterbrained": "incapable of serious, connected thought" (Dictionary.com). Sooner or later, however, even the most distracted viewer is going to wake up to the fact that they have seen all those programs they have had on in the background, and feel insulted that programmers think they are too stupid to realize that every program shown today has been shown 10 times, and will be shown another 10 times in short order!



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