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Old 08-08-2008, 09:22 AM   #21
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I just snorted milk out my nose. You're hilarious. Not in this day and age.
ok. i'll take your word for it.



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No there wasn't.

FOX Broadcasting Company: 'Til Death
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Old 08-08-2008, 09:37 AM   #22
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I am being serious. I live here, and I know how it rolls.

i make TV. i spend my days and nights trying to make executive producers happy, and i know it's about generating ratings so they can sell ad time.


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There isn't a lot of money in TV these days. Ratings are in the toilet and ad revenues are contracting because of the proliferation of so many new media, cable, directTV outlets -- and TIVO is dramatically shrinking the ad revenue even further, which reflects back on the licensing fees networks are willing to pay production companies. Studios and television are driven increasingly by marketing heads as opposed to creatives, so the goal is delivering the minimum audience to justify overhead, and sex is the easiest method of selling.

yes, i generally agree with this. and what do you think "selling" means in TV?




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Status is everything in Hollywood, and since most TV shows will fail anyway, if given the choice between being the guy who greenlit "Raymond" and being the guy who greenlit "Gossip Girl," most people will choose the latter. Guaranteed.

perhaps amongst peers, but amongst executives with bottom lines and shareholders, they will take a mega-smash "Raymond" any day of the week and twice on Sunday over "Gossip Girl."



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Edited to add -- in Hollywood, it's about perception, not about reality. As long as "Gossip Girl" is perceived as a hit, it doesn't matter if it actually delivers the numbers or not. (And it didn't -- "Dawson's Creek"'s numbers were far higher than "Gossip"'s.) The whole point is to try to brand or re-brand a network in an increasingly competitive market. The best way to be perceived as a hit is to get people talking, and what's the best way to get people talking? Push the boundaries. What are the easiest boundaries to push these days? Sex. So you have a teenager sleeping with his teacher ("Dawson's Creek", on the then-fledgling WB), or under-age teenagers engaged in sexual behavior on "Gossip Girl" (for the still-fledgling UPN).

this would be a better argument if you looked at the actual break-down of the ratings demographics to see how well "Gossip Girl" is doing amongst the coveted 13-35 year olds. "Dawson's" was, for that network, a mega-hit, and it certainly captured it's buzz through the frank talk about sex and sexuality (though there wasn't all that much actual sex on the show). you are absolutely correct about branding, and many of these shows are meant to be seen as a lifestyle accessory, a form of self-identification, in as much as a piece from Pottery Barn or your MacBookPro is supposed to tell others about you. but i feel you're getting lost in the thick of all of this -- everything, all of it, is meant to feed into the bottom line, the perception of "coolness" is about the bottom line. i think you're mostly quite perceptive here, but i think that the effort to expand something into the online world, to cross market with bands ("tonight's episode of Dawson's Creek featured songs from ...") is to try and hit viewers and potential viewers from many angles, but all with the intent that they will start to watch the show, or start to feel as if they *need* to watch the show in order to feel more complete. just like with toothpaste and deodorant, the goal is to create a need, a perceived lack of something, that only said product -- Gossip Girl -- can deliver.



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To bring this back on topic. I don't think network heads care about marriage. I don't think network heads care about what's programmed outside of audience perception. I don't think network presidents or programming chiefs care about anything except dollars and cents. And that, to me, is the real problem.

even though this does seemingly contradict your initial point, i think you're correct. it's amazing -- and, admittedly, self-serving -- to see the notes we get back from the network every week on our shows. they're astonishing, sometimes, and quite contradictory, and almost never actually improve the quality of the shows themselves. we are vastly better storytellers than the "suits" at the network, but the reason they give us notes in the first place, the reason they tell us to "pump the music" or "make quicker cuts" or "the opening 45 seconds starts to drag, pull us into the action sooner!" is because all that they are doing is trying to justify their jobs. if the ratings start to tank, executives come to the executive producers and say, "WTF?" and an executive producer has to justify every creative decision that was made, and the best way to justify such a decision is to look back at the ratings "research" that's done (usually in Las Vegas, which usually attracts a mix of some just out of the methadone clinic and the buffet crowd) and applied whatever broad principles they've been able to glean (and paid dearly for) from these research sessions, and the conclusions are almost laughably banal: people like quick cutting! people like their victims to be sympathetic!

the relationship between the "artist" (writer, producer, director, whatever) and the "suits" (EPs, network executives) has fallen way, way out of balance over the past 20 years, which is why subscription-based cable tends to offer the best quality viewing (though we could argue that the violence and sex on HBO and Showtime is also about buzz -- "here's something you can't get on network TV!") because they start with a bottom line, they don't have to generate it though ratings.

one could write mountains on this stuff.
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Old 08-10-2008, 02:24 PM   #23
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"Gossip Girl" doesn't even merit inclusion here, mainly because it is on The CW, which has abysmal ratings, in general. I think they're happy to have a show that actually gets press.
Gossip Girl is a great example of my point. If the CW were really interested in ratings, they'd be going after a different demographic.

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With all due respect, this is where you show that you have no understanding of how this industry works. Working in television, I can tell you that ratings are a non-stop obsession, with advertisers looking for any excuse to pay less or bail on a weak performing show and sales executives, who are under a lot of pressure, trying to meet their quotas.
I work in the industry. I have friends who are regularly out pitching shows. No one is looking for the next "Malcolm," the next "Home Improvement," the next "Raymond." They're all being told, "find me the next Arrested," or "find me the next 30 Rock." Executives aren't going after 4-quadrant shows. They're going after highly-niche-market shows with very specific demographics, with specific audiences who can provide branding opportunities -- and the audiences are (no surprise) usually young, white, affluent, with highly disposable income.

TV has nothing to do these days with ratings. It has to do, I would argue, and based on your evidence and Irvine's, with everything BUT ratings.
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Old 08-10-2008, 03:13 PM   #24
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amongst executives with bottom lines and shareholders, they will take a mega-smash "Raymond" any day of the week and twice on Sunday over "Gossip Girl."
Most film and TV networks are owned by huge mega-conglomerates at this point, and networks and studios are generally among the lowest performing elements in such portfolios, which is why they keep getting sold every five years. So the pressure to find higher-performing shows is much lower than it used to be. There was a time twenty years ago when 5 million viewers was lame. Now that's a certified hit.

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just like with toothpaste and deodorant, the goal is to create a need, a perceived lack of something, that only said product -- Gossip Girl -- can deliver.
I agree with this point, but this is all very far from your original point that "TV gives you what it thinks you want." This whole conversation has been a great exploration of the fact that really, TV is about giving you what it wants to give you, and if it just hangs in there long enough, you'll start to want it. And if not, they'll eventually can it and decide to give you something else.

"Cosby" is a great example of this in reverse, actually. No one wanted to make that show, because no one thought there was an audience. Cosby, on the other hand, kept pressing, and lo and behold -- people actually did want it, despite what the programming experts said.
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Old 08-10-2008, 05:01 PM   #25
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I work in the industry. I have friends who are regularly out pitching shows. No one is looking for the next "Malcolm," the next "Home Improvement," the next "Raymond." They're all being told, "find me the next Arrested," or "find me the next 30 Rock." Executives aren't going after 4-quadrant shows. They're going after highly-niche-market shows with very specific demographics, with specific audiences who can provide branding opportunities -- and the audiences are (no surprise) usually young, white, affluent, with highly disposable income.

TV has nothing to do these days with ratings. It has to do, I would argue, and based on your evidence and Irvine's, with everything BUT ratings.
It's an interesting perspective, and I'm glad you came back and elaborated more on your point here. I think the reason that "niche market" shows are in style right now is because there's a sense that the former "mass market ratings" paradigm is in the midst of total collapse, in the face of massive market fragmentation. Cable TV was bad enough, but now there's DVRs and the internet, so I think there's an increasing recognition that loyal niche shows, whose devoted fan base is more likely to buy DVDs and/or purchase episodes from iTunes or Amazon Unbox, is better than having nobody at all watch your shows, as network TV has become tremendously uncool.

Of course, advertisers have also become tremendously more selective than in the past, as having a Top 10 show that has low 18-49 viewership is not good enough. Malcolm/Home Improvement/Raymond were probably not "youthful" enough for them.

Nonetheless, I'm a bit more in your corner here than you might expect. I think it is a tremendous mistake to think that "youthful" audiences demand to be surrounded by "youthful" shows. "The Golden Girls," for instance, in spite of being a show about four senior citizen women, still seems to be quite beloved...even by young people. Good television is good television, frankly, and I think that can transcend demographics. Shows like "Gossip Girl" and all those "CSI" clones on CBS are all trash, as far as I see it, and I have no interest in watching them at all.

However, considering how panicky network TV is these days, I think the "niche market" paradigm is going to be played out for a while. And I think it could very well fail, in the end, but I'm not entirely sure what options they have left beyond that. Advertisers, more than anything, are a very vicious and demanding bunch these days.
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Old 08-11-2008, 02:02 AM   #26
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Well, I have to say I've learned a lot from all three of you. From my perspective it sounds like you all essentially agree with each other though you may be coming at it from different angles.

And nathan, I humbly apologize for speaking so rashly earlier. Clearly you know your stuff.
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Old 08-11-2008, 12:34 PM   #27
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And nathan, I humbly apologize for speaking so rashly earlier. Clearly you know your stuff.
Apology accepted, Captain Needa....
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Old 08-11-2008, 12:45 PM   #28
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I agree with this point, but this is all very far from your original point that "TV gives you what it thinks you want." This whole conversation has been a great exploration of the fact that really, TV is about giving you what it wants to give you, and if it just hangs in there long enough, you'll start to want it. And if not, they'll eventually can it and decide to give you something else.


while i agree with many points being raised, this entirely disregards the tremendous amount of money spent on audience research and test marketing shows -- they might now design shows to have a "niche" appeal and not to go for the 4 quadrants of viewership, and Gossip Girls seems a good example of this -- i can't see anyone over 35 being all that interested in Gossip Girl.

but even with this microtargeting of the audience comes the fact that executives know that there's a segment of the population out there that needs to be "served," and they spend lots of money trying to figure out what it is, exactly, that the kids want. and it seems that teenagers like to watch shows about smart, self-aware teenagers living in an aspirational universe who talk about sex.
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Old 08-11-2008, 01:04 PM   #29
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but even with this microtargeting of the audience comes the fact that executives know that there's a segment of the population out there that needs to be "served," and they spend lots of money trying to figure out what it is, exactly, that the kids want. and it seems that teenagers like to watch shows about smart, self-aware teenagers living in an aspirational universe who talk about sex.
It seems that if anything, based on our back-and-forth, there is a segment of the population out there that needs to be sold to. Since TV really is about advertising, and you're competing for eyeballs, there is a strain of marketing thought that says the best way to attract that audience is to push buttons.

However, Melon's point is more valid -- if you make a good show, people will come. What made people watch "Cosby," "Cheers," "Golden Girls," "Home Improvement," "Roseanne" (in its good years), "Seinfeld", "Friends" etc. was that the shows were actually good -- well-crafted, uncynical, respectful of the audience. (I would even add "Raymond" to the list.) Based on that, I would posit that if you make a good show that connects to people, they will watch -- and buy the DVDs and corresponding merchandise.

But again, since most shows will fail, and it takes, you know, actual work to make a good show, it's far easier to go with the sex.

And teenagers, I would posit, will probably watch just about anything. If we're comparing audience reach, more teens watch "American Idol" -- by far. But it's far cooler to be the "Gossip Girl" guy at the party.
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Old 08-11-2008, 01:30 PM   #30
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what those all-time TV classics also had, that we don't have today, is near total domination by the big 3 (maybe 4) networks. note that all of those shows are 20th century creations. it is a different world now, and since most shows do fail, network suits relay on "research" to justify their decisions to their own bosses.

i'd argue, though, that in it's best moments, Dawson's was quite respectful of it's audience, and quite uncynical.

but to tie all this back in to the point of the thread, i think it's totally false to say, as the PTC seems to think, that there's some sort of conspiracy to shove certain "hollywood values" down impressionable, innocent, dewy-eyed 14 year throats. there's laziness, and fear, and a system that rewards sensation to quality (though, sometimes, quality does win out -- we can find numerous success stories) as opposed to any concerted, pernicious ploy to corrupt the innocents or to somehow denigrate marriage as part of a larger, overall political agenda that's, somehow, connected to "THE BIGGEST CELEBRITY IN THE WORLD!"



and half that post deserves the knowing
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Old 08-11-2008, 05:54 PM   #31
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but to tie all this back in to the point of the thread, i think it's totally false to say, as the PTC seems to think, that there's some sort of conspiracy to shove certain "hollywood values" down impressionable, innocent, dewy-eyed 14 year throats.
It's naive to assume that those working within Hollywood are unaware of the power of media to shape opinions and values. Everyone from GLAAD to the PTC to Sears is aware of this. For the most part, so long as such organizations don't get in the way of the bottom line, most higher-ups in Hollywood don't care either way -- hence why I think that most Hollywoodians don't give much thought to marriage either way.

I also don't think there's such a thing as "Hollywood values." However, there are lobby groups across the political spectrum working to get the ear of Hollywood, and the resultant attention of the world. One only has to survey the recent list of political donors to see which side has more of a listening ear in town. Reasons for this are many and varied -- personally I think it's because conservatives spend more time cursing the (real or perceived) darkness than lighting a candle -- but to say that there aren't agendas is a bit naive. TV is a medium for the advertisement of much more than manufactured goods.
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Old 08-12-2008, 12:36 AM   #32
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TV is a medium for the advertisement of much more than manufactured goods.


while i think TV can do more than advertise goods, and it sometimes does -- think of the All in the Family famous "rape" episode -- the bottom line does not change, and there is never a noble television episode on a mainstream show. if the producers didn't think the AITF audience was ready for a "rape" episode, or, more likely, didn't think that handling a "serious" subject like rape would subtly flatter their audience (see? you watch *serious* television, good for you), then it never would have aired.

smaller networks and shows can get away with more. i don't think there's much of a question that the early episodes of The Real World, especially in regards to Pedro Zamora, were enormously influential in changing how young people saw gay people and say people living with AIDS. i also think that someone like David Chase views himself as an artist -- though he has certain standards of sex and violence he needs to hit in order to make Shelia Nevins happy.

to think that any one person gets an agenda across misses the vast spectrum of influences that push and pull and shape whatever original idea there was does miss how complex the machine actually is.
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Old 08-12-2008, 12:38 AM   #33
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I also don't think there's such a thing as "Hollywood values." However, there are lobby groups across the political spectrum working to get the ear of Hollywood, and the resultant attention of the world. One only has to survey the recent list of political donors to see which side has more of a listening ear in town. Reasons for this are many and varied -- personally I think it's because conservatives spend more time cursing the (real or perceived) darkness than lighting a candle -- but to say that there aren't agendas is a bit naive. TV is a medium for the advertisement of much more than manufactured goods.


are you suggesting that, say, the Clintons aren't only after Hollywood money? that they, say, sit down with Steven Spielberg and ask him to represent various aspects of their political platform in his next movie?

i think artists, actors, directors, writers, etc., are naturally more liberal. not all, but most of them are. why? that's a crazy complex subject.
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Old 08-12-2008, 10:14 AM   #34
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are you suggesting that, say, the Clintons aren't only after Hollywood money? that they, say, sit down with Steven Spielberg and ask him to represent various aspects of their political platform in his next movie?
Of course not. Such meetings would be unnecessary, since most people here are already in the tank for the DNC -- and some are probably more liberal even than that. At the same time, it's no secret that GLAAD vets TV and film scripts, or that Ted Baehr regularly tries to meet with studios to give them his take on their stuff. It's a part of life -- people want to use the media to influence their particular worldview, and as long as such activities don't get in the way of the bottom line, they are free to do so.

The reasons for why artists are mostly liberal here would make for a fascinating sidebar conversation.
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