Sunday, May 21, 2006

TV: Saturday Ratings Report

Nothing. Nada. Zip. Saturday’s ratings diary page will be blank. Unnamed Media Research Company might have been better off with one of these people.

I would have watched the Mets/Yankees game, but Fox cherry-picked it for their Saturday double-header. The early start time meant the local affiliate would have had to preempt an entire morning of toy and cereal commercials, so the game didn’t air here. Considering that the Mets blew a 4-0 lead in the ninth when their closer imploded and lost the game in the eleventh, that was probably for the best.

I also meant to catch Kevin Spacey’s monologue on Saturday Night Live but completely forgot about it. In the unlikely event that something funny happened on SNL, I’ll be able to tell by the flood of YouTube links in my in-box. That or the blood raining from the sky.

In the interest of accuracy, I should say that I did watch 15 minutes of various movies before starting a DVD. Batman Begins, War of the Worlds, The Rock and Spider-Man 2 were all on simultaneously. I flicked back and forth between them to create an action scene mash-up, briefly turning my TV into a jukebox of mayhem. Good luck trying to fit that into the diary.

I have been reading about TV, namely this Guardian article on the new golden age of American television. John Patterson is wrong to lump All in the Family in with other “formulaic trash” of the ‘70s, and his list of film actors coming to series television in the fall overlooks some of my favorites – Campbell Scott, Hope Davis, Stanley Tucci, Ray Liotta, Virginia Madsen.

He also neglects the role that economics plays in TV’s resurgence. More outlets means more opportunities for quality. UPN and the WB were created purely as business decisions, yet their existence led to Buffy, Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars. In the cable era, the barriers to entry in creating a network are even lower, and as a result every station has a series that merits awards and critical acclaim: Showtime (Weeds, Huff), USA (Monk), Sci-Fi (Battlestar Galactica). FX has three in The Shield, Nip/Tuck and Rescue Me.

Consider the same period in the movie business. Independent distributors have closed up shop or been subsumed by the studios, which have been through their own rounds of consolidation. They’re now so risk-averse that they seek partners even on films with budgets that won’t break the bank.

Movies are going through a dark period now, but they’ll survive because of the one thing they can provide that TV cannot: endings. Sometimes you don’t want to tune in next week, or binge on 22 episodes over a long weekend. Sometimes two hours is just about right.