I am tickled to continue my 43-year tradition of obtaining the Fall Preview “TV Guide,” but Associated Press TV critic Frazier Moore seems despondent about the state of the five over-the-air “legacy networks” (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and CW).
Like a parent tired of making excuses for slacker offspring, Moore insists the broadcast networks have surrendered to cable TV and streaming services, resigning themselves to cranking out safe, predictable, unimaginative “comfort food” programming (and presumably not refilling the gas tank when they borrow the family car).
Certainly, I enjoy non-broadcast programs such as “The Crown,” “Annedroids” and “Outlander,” but I think God will forgive me for also liking my well-worn jeans, comfort food at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and dopey dad sitcoms. I’m OK with “This Is Us” and “Life In Pieces” being pleasant aberrations rather than The New Normal.
Methinks Moore doth protest too much. Even at its most formulaic, the gore, language and topics on current network TV are (for good or ill) far removed from the days when “story arcs” didn’t exist, Ed Sullivan made the Rolling Stones change “Let’s Spend The Night Together” to “Let’s Spend Some Time Together” and network censors freaked out over scripts that required private eye Jim Rockford to deliver a karate chop.
Effete snobs may feel cheated if network TV isn’t constantly “challenging” them, but most working-class people (unless they’re Gomer Pyle) don’t watch the timeclock in hopes of rushing home and being challenged. (“Halt! Who goes there? Drop and give me 20!”)
Highfalutin critics crave more surprises from their TV, but I’m not exactly coveting surprises from my appliances. (“Honey, our new toaster not only makes great toast, but it also curled my hair. Can you call 911?”)
Another thing: Most working stiffs have a hard time empathizing with cable/streaming producers who are plumb tuckered out from gracing us with six episodes a season.
I understand striving for quality over quantity, but aren’t you glad the producers of consumer goods aren’t as anal-retentive as the new TV paradigm? (“We’re glad you enjoyed your milk and eggs. We should have some more coming to the shelves in, oh, I don’t know, a year and a half.”)
Are the programs you have to pay for really that groundbreaking? Cable’s fascination with the F-word seems to be a rip-off of Dr. Seuss’s style, circa 1960. (“I can say it on a chair. I can say it in mid-air. I can say it anywhere.”)
And while critics dismiss spinoffs, reboots and shows based on movies, half of the “envelope-pushing” fare seems to be based on a recently unearthed Sodom and Gomorrah tourism brochure.
I don’t mind that Emmy Awards voters give a nod to edgy programs, but they behave more like grinning bobbleheads. (“The 6-year-old zombie uses his heroin smuggling profits to get married to his goat! If only Dickens and Chaucer were alive to enjoy this!”)
At least the incomprehensible, non-linear storylines on artsy cable/streaming shows bring commoners and celebrities closer together. (“I’m glad people in Hollywood can get dementia just like the rest of us.”)
I’ll continue watching a mixture of network and non-network shows while liberated “creative” personnel turn somersaults over cable/streaming freedoms. (“It would violate the historical integrity and emotional impact of my miniseries if I couldn’t show Eleanor Roosevelt doing a nude scene at the United Nations!”)