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I'm Mad As Hell, And I'm Not Going to Take It Any More... After I Finish This Inaugural Column
September 21, 2010  | By Mike Donovan
 
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As a relatively unknown quantity, I thought my inaugural piece should give some indication as to where I'm coming from. To that end:

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-- I believe that television was much better in the '50s. Not programming, television viewing. When there was a single TV in the household, kids were often forced to watch what their parents wanted to watch. They (I) may have hated the shows, but they (I) learned something about adults, what they laughed at and what they reacted to. They (I) listened to the comments and discussions during the commercial breaks. Kids who spend time with adults learn a lot more about growing up than they do from their peers. If I were king, I would only allow one TV set per household, and computers would shut down completely at 5 p.m. local time.

-- Speaking of computers, I believe that the internet is the ultimate example of the ambivalent nature of technology. It is the best and worst communications device ever invented. It gives one access to all the information in the world, but due to a lack of gatekeeper, it gives access to all the imbeciles of the world who think that what they have to say is important. (Present company, or at least some of it, excluded.)

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-- Speaking of imbeciles, I believe that almost everything that is wrong politically in this country is the fault of television, actually cable television, specifically all-news channels. Cable is responsible for redefining the word "news" to include the biased ranting and raving of the Glenn Becks and Keith Olbermanns of the world.

If I were king I would require these two "news" channels to change their names. Fox News would become Fox Crap, and I don't think anyone knows what MSNBC really stands for, but it sure doesn't spell news.

-- I believe that pitting broadcast television against cable television, especially premium cable, for the Emmy or any other award is like pitting a Division III college team against an NFL team, even the Dolphins, in the Super Bowl. They operate under very different regulations and restrictions. Broadcast has to worry about the FCC, the advertisers and the viewers. Premium cable only has the viewers -- and those are viewers with money who love nudity, blood and cursing.

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It could be that the awards just need some new categories. So Boardwalk Empire (seen here and in the photo at the top of this column) could be entered in the "best drama with a $20 million pilot and 12 episodes with no restrictions which each run 20 or 30 times a week" category.

Certainly there is now enough original programming on basic and premium cable to warrant their own competitive categories.

I'm not saying bring back the Cable ACE Awards. But in the literal area of "level playing field," there is a high school world series, a college world series and a professional world series. I'm not equating broadcast TV with high school level sports. Far from it. By far, my favorite pastime is viewing scripted comedies and dramas on broadcast television.

Maybe when HBO gets nominated for a show that doesn't have to be bleeped, looped or heavily edited for broadcast, I'll change my mind. But don't give me the old "quality is quality" argument. Let's go with the regulated, restricted quality vs. unregulated, unrestricted quality argument and see what happens.

-- I believe that the cable industry's argument that a la carte cable would cost the average consumer more money in the long run is a crock. And if it isn't, tough. If you want to watch a lot, you pay a lot. Just stop forcing channels I don't watch, and don't want, down my throat and tell me you're saving me money. Come to think of it, any day now Apple, Google and Amazon will render this whole argument (and cable bundles) moot.

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-- Finally, I always ask my wife, Linda, to proof my writing. After reading this, she passed me a piece of paper on which she had written a multiple choice question. The question was, "Who wrote this piece?" The choices were: Dr. Gregory House, Dr. John Becker, Howard Beale, Mike Donovan.

I'm going with "All of the above."

 

 

15 Comments

 

Diane Werts said:

Loved this column, Mike! (And I don't know you from a hill of beans in this crazy world.)

Welcome aboard . . .

Comment posted on September 21, 2010 10:46 AM


Jasmine said:

I can't believe my two favorite Rowan professors are now together on the internet. My dreams have come true!

Comment posted on September 21, 2010 11:26 AM


Eileen said:

Welcome.

Ah, the 50's. My grandparents had the first tv in the neighborhood, so in addition to watching wrestling and a fuzzy screen, we also saw Milton Berle, Archbishop Sheen, the Goldbergs and a host of other adult shows as children. There was a true sense of family, no matter how fuzzy the screen or subject matter.

Growing up, now in our own home with our own tv, Sunday meant "Victory at Sea" courtesy of my father. Ed Sullivan, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and a host of other great shows that were viewed with somewhat "mutual agreement", if you can come to a consensus with 2 adults and 6 kids. But somehow it all worked; we loved Edward R. Murrow as much as Steve Allen.

You really can't go home again...

Comment posted on September 21, 2010 11:43 AM


Mark B. said:

Nice rant, Chayefsky (whose name I learned in your class)!
Two really interesting points that I never thought about. I suppose it IS character and opinion-shaping to have to watch what adults watch, just as much as it is to watch what adults DO. Being exposed to new ideas, even if you hate them, is always most important.

Secondly, I totally agree about the Emmys - and that's a great parallel. Though, having a Network-only Emmy Awards would be about as exciting as a Vaudeville Awards. Instead of evening the playing field for AWARDS, they should just even the playing fields for COMPETITION. Networks should shed the FCC's puritanical restrictions which strangle free expression and creativity, and accept that exposed breasts and curse words won't tarnish our country's morals while we watch our wholesome heroes assault and kill each other en masse! People fight. People curse. People have sex. What ridiculous paradigm are the censors trying to hold us to?
The internet may suffer from lack of a gatekeeper, but look what happens when the gatekeeper has too many keys.
As the Romans used to say, 'Quis custodiet ipsos custodes.'
'Who will guard the guards?'
Uh-oh. Who's ranting now?! Sorry!

Comment posted on September 21, 2010 1:51 PM


Rich said:

I think it's funny how the show that won the Best Drama 3 years in a row ("Mad Men" on AMC) is a show that 90% of people I know doesn't watch. Yet, this same crowd know all about "Dexter", "True Blood", "House" etc. "Mad Men" is a perfect Hybrid - it's got Broadcast TV manners, Cable TV charm, and the swagger of Premium (It's like Don Draper).

I didn't watch ANYTHING on the networks this past summer (not a damn thing- not even news). Plus Prof. D. You forget some of these show thrive on DVD, where they can be watched in a row. I myself usually watch things Online or OnDemand. I love how TV has evolved.

The "high school" level TV shows are the ones on basic cable. Shows like "Eureka" and "Psych" - I never watch those because they can't hold a candle to "Fringe" or "House". I see the Premium cable shows as Mini-Series or dramatic volumes with Adult Content. As I am sure you know, other countries don't have our 'Puritanical' slant to content Broadcast content so the HBO, ShowTime, & Starz are really just giving the world what it's already used to. Hell, you should what Japanese Anime is capable of - "Baka No Test" would scare the hell out of "Glee".

Comment posted on September 21, 2010 1:53 PM


George B. said:


You got lost in the Fifties. Yesterday's grass is always easier to smoke...

Comment posted on September 21, 2010 3:11 PM
Patty said:

As far as a la carte programming, this is available now and without the bother of a television set. I have a 30mbps FIOS connection and download whatever program I want to see in about 2 minutes. I watch on my oversized monitor but it is easy enough to send to a big screen should you be so inclined. All of the commercials have been deleted already.

It is funny that Verizon sends me regular offers to sign on for their TV service. They do not seem to understand that I don't need it, not with a fast internet connection. This is the future.

I have been doing this for several years and I'm now 62. It isn't all that difficult to to do and eventually people will realize this and then cable and the networks will have some retooling to do.

Comment posted on September 22, 2010 12:41 AM


Angela said:

Here's my various rants and comments. I hope you're right that Amazon, Google or whoever will make cable bundles a thing of the past. ( And I would love it if all personal computers shut off at 5pm, 365 days a year.)

I'm tired of our one cable company monopoly, able to charge whatever they damn well want, without our being able to choose what we want. I live in an apartment complex, so satellite is not an option, not that I know if it's a better option.

I finally broke down recently and ordered a DVR for the first time in my life via cable. I had to call tech support twice tonight with problems. The second technical support rep., basically said the first rep was full of BS. Who am I to believe? It reminds me of dealing with Medicare Part D. Ugh!

I'm a little tired of hearing how great it was back when. I don't have fond memories, or any memories of our family watching TV together. But I don't mind reading about it what it was like, if there is something that can be learned from the past that we can try to do something about today or in the future.

You're right that the playing field for broadcast TV and cable is not level and we don't recognize that when it comes to awards. Still, I'm watching so much more cable than I am broadcast TV because the latter has gone so far downhill. Whose fault is that?

I recently ordered HBO. And not because I have a lot of money and/or love blood, sex, and cursing. I just want to watch quality TV.

Do this for me. List 5 intelligent, original, and thought provoking shows on Broadcast TV that are airing this fall. Maybe that's not fair as this year is exceptionally bad. How about 5 TV shows of that sort that started airing last fall and are still on. I'm curious as to what they are.

Examples for me would be The Wire, Deadwood, 6 Feet Under, Battlestar Galactica, Third Watch, Joan of Arcadia, Friday Night Lights, Homicide life on the Streets, etc. But none of those count because they were either premium cable at one time or didn't premiere in the last 2 years.

Comment posted on September 22, 2010 2:44 AM


Mark L. said:

Though I agree with the general sentiment here, your discussion of cable news is flawed. You blame television and cable news networks, but they are not to blame for the fact that people watch such drivel. People choose to watch crap over far better news outlets (available on PBS for instance). We are so obsessed with balance that people make false dichotomies (even in political science courses, which I have seen as a grad student in political science) between news outlets like Fox news and NPR as if they are the same because conservatives like one and liberals the other, but we lose all ability to critique anything, even when the evidence leans so heavily one way. The truth is, without a doubt, NPR does a better job of covering real issues than FOX news. This problem goes for other bad tv too. You might be able to critique the show, but you can't critique the person who watches it. Unfortunately, a lot of people watch crappy TV (news or otherwise), but almost no one admits that people are to blame. This is why I would NOT like to see parents forcing their kids to watch what they watch.

Comment posted on September 22, 2010 4:18 AM


Jax said:

I often wish we could go back to 50's style TV viewing as well if only because that was before teenagers had tons of disposable income in their pockets and the entertainment industry wasn't chasing their money by pandering to them with utter crap. Seriously, who died and left teenagers in charge of everything!!!

Comment posted on September 22, 2010 7:57 AM


Bee said:

1. Agree that cable changed things. Kids were so much nicer before MTV.

2. Who is Dr. John Becker? Is that the guy show with the guy from Cheers?

3. You credit HBO for photos. I want credit for the one at the top with the 2 kids!!

Best of luck with your new venture? Do you get paid too?

Comment posted on September 22, 2010 10:02 AM


Mike Donovan said:

First let me say thanks to all who read my first piece. Other writers on this website are correct: TVWW readers are really bright people. To those who said nice things, double thanks. To those who took issue with me I just want to say: Hey! I've been wrong before.

While I'd like to respond point for point to everyone who commented, I've got TV to watch. So just a few responses.

To Jasmine: We love you too, but you do know the grades can't be changed.

To Eileen: I think the last time we had anything even close was ABC's TGIF. I don't know why a broadcast network doesn't try it again. Young kids can still stay up later on Friday nights. Maybe, just maybe, some adult could sit, watch and discuss the shows with the kids.
Or maybe the law that requires stations to air three hours of "qualified" children's programming each week should also require they be on Friday nights instead of early Saturday or Sunday mornings.

To Mark B.: Wow, teach them a little and they turn on you! People also pick their noses, throw up, spit glemmies and kill themselves, but I'd just as soon not see it on TV. Call me a Puritan.

To Rich: Huh?

To Patty: You're absolutely right. I'm really speaking for the rest of us who are getting screwed each month by the cable companies. And, in most cases, I'd prefer a la carte channels, not individual shows. But why not write a Dummies Guide, for people such as I, with step-by-step instructions on how to set this up.

To Angela: Frankly, for intelligent, original, thought provoking stuff, I usually turn to magazines, newspapers and books. For TV, I assume you don't mean shows like "Meet The Press," "Nightline" or "60 Minutes," right? For the most part, I don't look to a mass medium like TV for intelligent, original or thought-provoking. I just like to sit back and enjoy the fun and adventures of those fake little people on my flat screen.

To Mark L: I don't get NPR on my television (talk about false dichotomies). And I'm old fashioned. I expect anything named "news" to be objective and fact-checked. I'm surprised you blame the viewer and not the content provider.

To Bee: (In the interest of full disclosure, Bee is my sister.) That said:
1. Don't blame MTV. Blame crappy PARENTS.
2. Yes.
3. Consider yourself credited. (The TV-watching kids would be my brother and me.)
4. Yes, but not by TVWW.

Comment posted on September 22, 2010 2:22 PM
Rich said:

HUH?...all I get is a "Huh?" well, I know who MY fav voice of reason is on TVWW is.

I do like that you blame the parents and not MTV, but sadly MTV sold its soul in the early 90's and has been a vapid & shallow "Lifestyle channel" ever since. They are the Ooze that eats itself.

Comment posted on September 22, 2010 5:30 PM


Angela said:

Mike, I think that's where we differ, meaning *why* we watch TV. To me those fake little people aren't always so fake. I used to watch TV for the exact reasons you do. Sheer entertainment and escape from reality.

But with sites like TV Worth Watching and some digging on my own, I've managed to find shows that allow me to learn about history, see places around the world, and gain an understanding of people with completely different view points than my own. I was reminded of 'Band of Brothers' while I typed this.

One of the hardest parts about life to me is that we can only choose one path at a time (for the most part). I used to rely solely on books, or talking to people, to find out what those other paths might be like. In fact I'm sure I learned more from reading fiction than I did during my entire public high school education. Now I do the same thing with TV.

I most likely will never get to experience these things any other way. It's impossible to go back in time to a place like 'Deadwood'. And it's hard to understand what it's like growing up in poverty in the city, until I watched 'The Wire'. The producers and writers of many shows like these work very hard to bring that world to us in a historically accurate manner.

I won't ever give up reading. I can't live without a book in progress, but there's something about seeing it alive on a screen that gives me a different experience that I don't always get through books.

Comment posted on September 23, 2010 5:31 PM


Smith said:

Yeah, it's who you think it is! This is where you REALLY meet the cross-section of "life-as-we-know-it." But I digress (as usual)...when I was little (not sitting next to my younger brother because we'd kill each other in the span of 5 minutes), I sat and watched "Combat," "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," and the Pittsburgh Steelers with my dad (who worked for US Steel). Franco Harris and slo-mo TV were huge in our den where my dad WAS a stereotypical couch potato. And although he wasn't thrilled with the dirty grimy work of his blue collar job, he did look forward to coming home to watch sports and his favorite shows. And without the comedy of the 50's to 80's, I'm not sure he would have ever laughed at all - seriously! So, no, life wasn't a ball of cherries or "yesterday's grass," but TV did fill a void for him and I bet millions of others like him.

It's funny when you think about it, the comedy shows of yesteryear like "All in the Family," for example, became a reflection of the consciousness of America - one we couldn't help but laugh at because many of us were represented by those characters. You just can't dismiss the POSITIVE impact that show made on society. What more could you ask for from a TV show - entertainment and a lesson on ethics.

So, Meathead, job well done! I can't wait to give you my "humble" opinion again in the future.

Comment posted on October 23, 2010 10:12 PM
 
 
 
 
 
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