Sunday, January 30, 2011

The 41 Minute Hour

When you sit down to watch an hour of televison did you know that you are now getting only 41 minutes of actual programming?
The television industry is killing the goose that laid the golden egg.  They are self destructing. 
First of all there is the absence of intellectual television programs anymore if indeed there ever were any. It’s becoming a vast wasteland punctuated by rude, irritating, frenetic, and crass intrusions.  Anytime I turn the television on there is always a commercial running, it never fails.  Not only that but there is an understanding among the networks to run them all at the same time on all networks so that no matter which channel you turn to there is a commercial on. Who would come up with such a dunder-headed idea?  Do they really think that I or anyone else will turn from one commercial just to tune into another commercial and another ad nauseum??  That line of reasoning doesn’t work at my house.  Like more and more people are doing, I’m turning on the computer to get my news quietly.
  I turn on the laptop in the mornings to get my quiet news fix SANS the latest noisy ads for vacuum cleaners, futuristic cars, magical anti-aging potions and every techno geeks dream gadget of the month.  Lastly I do not miss the often violent and always loud promos for whatever programming there might be left.  It’s becoming a waste of my money every month.
In a recent column in the Regina Leader Post of January 27th, 2011 an acclaimed producer is concerned about the present state of network drama and he should know.  He has created legal dramas such as Picket Fences, Ally McBeal, The Practice, Boston Legal, and now Harry’s Law. 
David E. Kelley warned several years ago at a Television Critics Association gathering for Boston Legal that the constant pressure on TV writers and producers to accommodate longer commercial breaks, and more of them, was eroding his ability to tell a coherent story honestly and truthfully, within the constraints of a 42-minute hour.  “I think there are a lot of smart dramas on the networks, but I do remain frustrated, though, by the lack of time we get to tell our story. Historically, if you look at my shows, they start slowly and build.  Where once we were at 48 minutes, we’re now down to 41.  Broken into six acts it is more difficult to tell the slower, emotionally building stories.  It’s more incumbent on us to be noisy.  The commercials we compete with are noisy,” Kelley said.
My eyes popped when I saw that number.  Advertising has taken over to such a degree that this vehicle which we once turned to for entertainment and diversion has become a virtual store-front window for advertisement.  At one time when you watched a program it was occasionally interrupted by advertising.  Now you watch advertising which is occasionally interrupted by programming!  It’s gone so far that dilution of content presented is to the point of non-substance or perhaps that is what is meant by the law of diminishing returns.  It’s the death knell for the cable industry as we know it.

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