In An Era Of Smart TV, Why Are Some Shows So Dumb?
We live in an era with smart TV, where the sets are connected online and provide access to all sorts of content. We’re also in a type of golden era of TV shows again (not quite the era of The Sopranos, The Wire and LOST but still very good) with thinking shows such Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Homeland, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones.
The question is, why, with all these smart sets and such good programming, so many network shows are simply so dumb? All four of the broadcast networks continue to roll out shows that are simply head scratchers; which makes this TV junkie think these are concepts that HBO, Showtime, AMC and even FX all passed on.
Some are rating duds, which hopefully prove the viewing audience won’t simply accept this level of nonsense. But sadly, some of these awful shows are connecting with viewers. To the latter point, perhaps we can hope that people are viewing as hipsters and watching ironically.
How else, after all, can we explain Monday nights, which serves to only set the sad tone for the whole week? CBS leads the night of prime time with the past-its-prime How I Met Your Mother. There are people that can drag out a story, but this show (which was never high art to begin with) continues to lower the bar for all sitcoms to come. This show has been followed by a revolving door of awful TV for years, including the “is it still really on” Rules of Engagement.
CBS is far from the only guilty party in making Monday’s a night of dumb TV. ABC offers up Dancing With the Stars; but while a dance show might not be the smartest fare on TV, it is far from the dumbest.
Fox and NBC both deliver the goods (and by that I mean the bad) with The Following and Revolution respectively.
The Following could best be described as a train wreck of a TV show. We know we shouldn’t watch it, we know it is going to be horrible, and yet we can’t look away. Consider the comments on IMDB.com and I’m not alone in this opinion. This is a show where a serial killer who has preyed on college age women has managed to attract a cult of worshippers, many of whom he apparently interacted with while in a maximum security prison. Not only does this character manage to escape from said prison, but a team of FBI agents can’t track him down week after week.
In the 1960s it took four full seasons for Dr. Richard Kimble to track down the “One Armed Man” on The Fugitive. Let’s hope The Following has The Ending before that long.
Revolution on NBC is no better. It has a similar feel to AMC’s The Walking Dead. Society has collapsed, the characters are struggling to survive and yet The Walking Dead could be considered fine art compared to Revolution, which is trying way too hard to be the next LOST.
This is a world where the lights go out and a United States Marine sergeant and his best buddy form a militia and somehow create a mini-empire that covers roughly one-quarter of the United States in the ensuing 15 years. That part might be believable, but suddenly we’re to believe that the “militia” relies on muzzle loading muskets from the era of the American Civil War, everyone seems bathed with clean clothes (something we don’t see on The Walking Dead) and with not a dentist in sight everyone has nice perfect white teeth.
Were those the only problems with the show, it could work; but the writers seem compelled to make this about so much more. This isn’t about a handful of people surviving the end of the world, but instead is setting up a major revolution (hence the name of the show) against the vile militia. Yet, we see supposed insurgents who don’t bother with sentries, don’t operate as independent cells and somehow can be tracked down week after week only to get away again. In other words it has the writing of a Saturday morning TV show for kids, but is meant for adults.
The argument has been made that these aren’t trained soldiers leading the uprising, but neither were Vladimir Lenin, Mao Tse-tung or Ho Chi-Minh. They all seemed to do OK.
That isn’t to say that neither of these shows are the worst things on TV; a scan through the TV listings shows that there are far dumber shows out there. The problem is that TV dramas have fallen so low (I tend to cut sitcoms some slack, even if How I Met Your Mother should get to the point already).
Now in fairness, some of this mid-season’s other shows haven’t made it, and nor has dumb been relegated to Monday. In fact, a number of canceled TV programs aired throughout the week.
NBC has already axed the Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde themed Do No Harm, while the time ran out for ABC’s Zero Hour. ABC had previously deep sixed the submarine drama The Last Resort in January, and had evicted 666 Park Ave last fall. That suggests there is hope that maybe the dumbing down of TV won’t continue.
We’ll have to wait until next fall’s shows are announced to be sure. Until then you can catch me yelling at the TV on Monday nights.
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