April 25, 2002

The Daze Rant

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Now that I am a second semester senior, I am finally being reacquainted with the art of following a weekly television series and planning my entire schedule around the time that it airs. (Well, not my entire schedule…) From my favorite Thursday night line-up of Friends, Will and Grace, and ER, to The West Wing on Wednesday nights, or The Practice every Sunday, there are a few quality shows that have become a part of my weekly regiment. That is why when repeats abound and original episodes of my favorite shows are only created for every other week, the art of watching television becomes quite frustrating.

For instance, last Thursday night, there were two repeat episodes of Friends to fill the void of a new half hour episode. Nevertheless, every commercial break previewed this week’s baby shower extravaganza. Furthermore, ER aired a repeat. Miraculously, only the week before Dr. Green had his last day in the ER, yet in this episode he was back as the leading physician. Hmmm. Have television producers and sitcom writers alike exhausted their resources and reached an empty well that was once brimming with a proliferation of television creativity?

Why is it that there are only certain times during each television season when stations vie to compete for number one ratings? As a barometer of viewer satisfaction, one would imagine that television personnel would aim to achieve greater success in television ratings throughout the entire season. I am sure that many other viewers, beside myself, turn on the television to watch their favorite programs and are disappointedly bombarded by the same recycled drama from various weeks prior.

It is no wonder that systems such as digital cable are profiting so spectacularly. With the same old television repeats, showcasing the same old mundane episodes, television viewers are seeking recourse from this stifling cycle of primetime television neglect. Viewers are becoming exasperated with basic primetime television, and now, with the advent of enhanced features and more stations, are enabled to explore other options.

Have writers and producers forgotten that their creative genius is desired by millions of fans that anxiously await the next moment in their favorite characters’ lives? While television does not dictate its viewers’ lives, there is an unspoken vicariousness that is inherent in the concept of television and the relationship that viewers have with a series. TV has notoriously been an all-American “pastime”; nevertheless, with the constant rehashing of the same episodes and the lack of creative inspiration that has become a customary part of the primetime sitcom and drama, television watching is quickly losing its appeal. While advertisements and occasional repeats magnify the suspense for the next week’s episode, this lack of continuous originality definitely surpasses the intent of suspense.

Networks should become more attuned to their fans — fans that are beginning to view primetime scheduling as a ploy to achieve the highest ratings with the least amount of energy and creativity dispensed. Repeats are necessary at certain occasions, like during the slower, summer season when more people are outdoors. Lately though, primetime television has been shirking its responsibilities and giving its viewers what has already been given. Networks have an obligation to their viewers and lately that obligation is slowly being trashed as their old materials are being recycled, and television viewing is becoming more predictable.

Archived article by Barbara Seigel