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And It's Free!
November 2, 2010  | By Mike Donovan
For the past several months I've read critics and reviewers writing about how this was maybe the worst new season in broadcast history. And I'm reminded of something that I read (attributed, I think, to 60 Minutescreator Don Hewitt) that went something like this.

You can buy a decent TV for about $500, and it'll last about 10 years. That's about $50 a year. The problem seems to be that people (especially critics and reviewers) expect about $50 a night of entertainment.


I think he was on to something. Let's run down some of this season's new shows that I think are at best excellent and at worst entertaining.

Blue Bloods is an extraordinarily good police drama, as is Detroit 187 [photo above], and both are easily comparable to NYPD Blue and Hill Street Blues. The new Law & Order Los Angeles is a great continuation of that franchise, and The Event [photo at left] is developing into a must-see.

Nikita is a fun-to-watch, escapist, action-adventure series, as are Undercovers and Chase. Hellcats and No Ordinary Family are also fun to watch. They are what they are. Not great art, but great entertainment.

The "remake" of Hawaii Five-0, which I thought I would tune out after the first commercial break, works really well and is developing a terrific buddy relationship between the two stars. The other "remake" that I would have bet would be awful, The Defenders (maybe more of a "name steal" than a "remake"), is not quite as good as Five-0, but still entertaining and getting better (especially James Belushi) each week.

I'm not as much of a comedy fan as my wife is, but Mike & Molly [photo below] had me laughing out loud several times (and I'm a fat guy), and Better With You also has its moments.


If we add in a few of the terrific returning shows like The Good Wife, Parenthood, Brothers and Sisters (three of my personal favorites), Chuck, House, CSI, The Mentalist, L&O: SVU, Glee, Modern Family, The Middle, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, Criminal Minds and Castle, by my calculations we're looking at about 25 hours a week. (And that's not even including news and sports, or programs that I don't care for but others do, like Grey's Anatomy and Community.) That's more than three hours per night, seven days a week. Maybe not $50 a night, but certainly $50 a week.

Were there some turkeys this season? Sure. I had high hopes for Outlaw, but it was wrong-headed right from the premise. And I thought Lone Star and My Generation deserved at least another couple of weeks. But on the whole, a pretty entertaining season.

So let's stop declaring broadcast network television as either dead or in a coma, crushed by the "art" of basic and premium cable, and give the creative people who still entertain millions of people each night some props.




Davey said:

Um, your premise is badly flawed, I'm afraid. TV now has around 15 minutes of commercials per hour. If we charged, say, $20/hour for our time watching them the equation is turned on its head. The investment in the TV set is only a pittance compared with what our time watching useless commercials is worth. There's no reason for gratitude for all the "free" stuff.

Comment posted on November 5, 2010 3:13 PM

Bee said:

Consider this: Divide monthly payment by number of channels available: Reasonable? Divide monthly payment by number of programs/channels actually tuned to: Frightening. Searching for something good to watch takes almost as long as watching. And don't we all usually return to the same channels whether cable or broadcast?

As for good stuff, it's in short supply and sometimes old unviewed re-runs are a pleasant surprise.

Comment posted on November 7, 2010 12:03 PM

Mike Donovan said:

First, I'm sorry your time is only worth $20 per hour.
Second,if you don't enjoy the commercials, why not just zip through them? That's why God created TiVo.

Bee: I was writing very clearly only about broadcast television for which there is no monthly payment. If you get rid of your cable, you'll not only save money, but you'll have far fewer decisions to make about programming.

Comment posted on November 8, 2010 9:14 AM

Mark L said:

Well said. I would be hard-pressed to fit any more shows into my schedule.

Comment posted on November 8, 2010 9:24 AM
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