Thursday, November 16, 2006

Arrested Development

--Submitted by Willow Welter, features copy editor, since Andy Wineke is on vacation.
I just finished watching all 3 seasons of "Arrested Development" on DVD. This little gem, which aired on Fox and starred Justin Bateman, David Cross, Jeffrey Tambor et al., was canceled last year, although it was some of the funniest, most intelligent writing on TV since the "Simpsons." The critics loved it, it won 16 awards -- 7 Emmys, a Golden Globe, 3 Television Critics Association awards and many more, not to mention the numerous nominations -- but none of that matters if a show's not getting viewers, which I suppose "Arrested" wasn't.
Maybe America wasn't ready for such a postmodern show; "Arrested" wasn't afraid to laugh at itself, and there were many moments when the dialogue broke character and acknowledged it was a TV show. The jokes were funny and smart on so many levels, with layers to almost every line spoken.
It didn't spoon-feed us; maybe that was the problem. Did its absence of a laugh track mean viewers didn't know when to laugh? Or did the narration (by Ron Howard, an executive producer of the show) not explain the plot well enough?
I think television, and the popularity of certain shows, can tell us a thing or two about our culture. Americans watch a lot of TV, so it's gotta say something about our interests. This week's Nielsen TV Ratings included THREE variations of "Dancing With the Stars" on the Top Ten Most Watched TV shows of the previous week. I don't want to dis people who like the show; hey, I like The O.C. and other television you could make fun of me for. (And I will definitely understand if The O.C. gets canceled after this year.)
But yesterday, a reader helped me further understand the TV-viewing audience, and what really matters to them. One of the editors here got a call yesterday from a woman concerned The Gazette had shown bias in a story.
The caller wasn't worried The Gazette had a liberal slant. She wasn't worried it had a conservative slant. She was upset because apparently one of our stories had conveyed a bias toward Emmitt Smith on "Dancing With the Stars." Apparently the caller thinks The Gazette clearly wanted Smith to win the reality show, and as we all know, a bias in a news story is unethical journalism.
That speaks volumes, on so many levels.

Prime-time viewership numbers compiled by Nielsen Media Research for Nov. 6-12.
1. “Desperate Housewives,” ABC
2. “Dancing with the Stars,” ABC
3. “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS
4. “Dancing with the Stars Results,” ABC
5. “Grey’s Anatomy,” ABC
6. “NBC Sunday Night Football: Chicago vs. N.Y. Giants,” NBC
7. “Dancing with the Stars Recap,” ABC
8. “Criminal Minds,” CBS
9. “Lost,” ABC
10. “CSI: Miami,” CBS
11. “CSI: NY,” CBS
12. “60 Minutes,” CBS
13. “House,” (Election Night special), Fox
14. “CMA Awards,” ABC
15. “NCIS” (Election Night Special), CBS
16. “Without a Trace,” CBS
17. “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” ABC
18. “Cold Case,” CBS
19. “Deal or No Deal” (Monday), NBC
20. “E.R.,” NBC


At 4:43 PM, November 16, 2006, Blogger V said...

You HAVE to be kidding - someone called in to say The Gazette "wanted" E. Smith to win Dancing with the Stars?

Too much free time - by FAR.


At 4:54 PM, November 16, 2006, Blogger Eli the Mad Man said...

Who scoffed when I called the average TV viewer ('specially for this show) sheep?


Believe me now... dontcha!? ;)


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