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HOT SPOT: Support your local scriptwriter!
July 28, 2008  | By Diane Werts

Whew. I'm just back from two weeks at the L.A. press tour, where TV critics heard all about the networks' fall plans for scripted shows. Which makes it all the more depressing to look through tonight's network listings and find . . . reality crap.

Oh, excuse me -- UNscripted shows.

So here's advice I may never give again. Let's all tune to CBS' encores of adequate sitcoms (The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, Two and a Half Men, Old Christine) or Fox' repeats of serviceable dramas (Bones, House). Somebody has to punish NBC for serving up a night filled with American Gladiators, Nashville Star and Dateline, and ABC for delivering High School Musical: Get in the Picture, Wanna Bet? and The Mole.

And splitting our votes among the 192 options on cable won't send the right message.

The numbers need to reflect network viewers' preference for high-quality scripted shows. Actually, any scripted shows -- anything other than the perhaps not scripted but certainly "manipulatively produced" programs that currently fester under the rubriquet "reality."

Look at Bianculli's Monday best bets above. Just one broadcast network program. One. Of six. This is not right. Beyond the households that can't afford premium cablers like Showtime (which accounts for two of the night's top choices), there are also folks for whom cable/satellite of any kind remains a luxury. And today's economy is forcing more people to make precisely that sort of choice.

Summer has increasingly become a network dumping ground. Used to be reruns. Now it's cheap and tawdry fare focused largely on dubious "talents," deceit and humiliation.

Could we please have our reruns back?




Paul said:

May I suggest what might be a better solution: perhaps your reviewer colleagues should declare all these shows as phony an refuse to review them. Especially because a significant amount of their popularity comes from water cooler talk, much of which is generated by those aforementioned colleagues. Don't take this personal, it's not directed at you. It's just that you should be careful what your colleagues wish for. As long as the TV journalism industry keeps pretending these are reality shows, you'll get what their reviews are wishing for: more and more of this junk, and no call for a boycott - serious or not - will be effective.

Sorry, but this is one case were reviewers aren't the solution, they're part of the problem. Nothing personal, I just think you're tilting at the wrong windmills, here. Maybe you should make your plea at the next TCA. Or maybe just make it louder next time your there.

Paul from Richmond, KY

Diane said:

Thanks, Paul. Good points. Many TV writers would love to ignore these programs. But these days in publications, it's hard to refuse to review anything if the higher-ups think it's "what readers want." And that's what they think. (Sigh.)

You may notice I try to use quotes around the word "reality," since the shows listed under this genre are often the most un-real things on the tube. My own little protest.


Paul from Richmond, KY said:

Thanks for the honesty. I sympathize. Well, at least you're gainfully employed and have the chance to write quality columns, but, and I hate to say it after such an elegant defense, it does let a cat out of the bag. It confirms the suspicion that a lot of buzz is quantity generated by suits, rather than quality generated by conscientious critics. Still, thanks again for the honesty and keep up the good work! And keep the quotes. That's also how I write about "reality" shows. Because there's no good way to write rolling in the aisle, which can be the only fitting response to people who believe these shows are real.

Kirk Woodward said:


How right you are. "Reality" has almost nothing to do with these shows. It's surely only a matter of time before it becomes common knowledge how close "producing" and editing are to writing, when it comes to television.

Best wishes,

Kirk Woodward

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