Friday, July 06, 2007

SitcomsOnline.com Special: Networks Selling Out?

SitcomsOnline.com Special
Networks Selling Out?
By: Seth Thrasher

For some time now, there has been a lot of talk regarding networks, such as TV Land, GSN, USA Network, etc. "selling out" – that is to say that the network shifts its programming practices from its original or most popular style to a different one, replacing fan favorite programs with others, etc. A lot is made of this as we, as fans of the television genre, want to continue to enjoy our favorite programs indefinitely.

Something that gets lost in this emotional attachment, though, is that at the end of the day these networks are businesses. And businesses in the television industry, for better or worse, have a responsibility to its advertisers, and to its owners and shareholders, to deliver the largest viewership possible, the largest viewership among the advertisers desired target group possible, and to operate in a manner that makes the company the most money.

One example is Nick at Nite. Every other night is a marathon of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air or Roseanne. Many fans aren't happy with this in the least bit – they long for the days of when the channel ran shows like I Love Lucy, Taxi, I Dream of Jeannie, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Happy Days, etc. That's a nice sentiment to have, but ultimately, Nick at Nite does wonderful ratings airing shows like Fresh Prince and Roseanne, particularly among the groups their advertisers want to target. I guarantee you if they could get the same ratings airing The Odd Couple as they could Fresh Prince, you'd get to see Felix and Oscar just as much as you see Dan and Roseanne.

People complain as though networks owe them to run these shows – unfortunately, one small reality of the television industry negates this; unless you're part of a household that reports viewing data to Nielsen, what you’re watching – and what you want to watch...really doesn’t matter as much as it possibly should. It's a flaw in the Nielsen system – if 10 Nielsen viewers are watching Fresh Prince, and 1000 non-Nielsen viewers are watching Murphy Brown, the data reported to networks – and advertisers – indicates all of those 1000 people are in fact watching...Fresh Prince. Is it right? Not necessarily. But it's the best measurement system the industry has at the moment.

This system, and the data it produces, is why networks ultimately have to "betray their vision." For better or worse their loyalties lie with the bottom line. If the ratings data says that airing nothing but Fresh Prince, Roseanne, and The Cosby Show will put more viewers – and more young viewers – in front of the TV than WKRP in Cincinnati, Bob Newhart, and Laverne & Shirley then that's what they'll run.

They're not selling out, or whatever you want to call it. A lot of the people in this business really DO care about television. In order to remain a viable network, they have to make money. In order to make money, they have to make advertisers happy. In order to make advertisers happy, they have to deliver the most viewers possible per timeslot, and with any luck, the most of the specific group the advertiser is trying to target. And in order to attract the most viewers, sometimes a channel will have to run its most popular programs often, in order to maximize these things. It is a sad reality of this industry, and for better or worse it is not likely to change any time soon.

Agree or disagree with Seth? Discuss it here.
Sitcoms Airing Tonight (Thursday, April 17)

The Big Bang Theory - "The Itchy Brain Simulation" (CBS, 8:00PM ET/PT)
Leonard tries to keep Sheldon from overreacting when a past mistake comes to light, but Sheldon punishes Leonard by making him walk a mile in his shoes. Meanwhile, Penny confronts Raj’s ex-girlfriend, Lucy.

The Big Bang Theory - "The Scavenger Vortex" (CBS, 8:30PM T/PT) (Repeat)
When the entire gang competes in a scavenger hunt designed by Raj, it brings out the best – and worst – in everyone.

The Crazy Ones - "The Monster" / "The Lighthouse" (CBS, 9:00PM ET/PT) (Season Finale)
"The Monster" - Simon and the team try an out-of-the-box idea in order to save a library from being shut down, and Gordon literally becomes the unwilling poster boy for the campaign. Brad Garrett returns as Gordon Lewis, Gayle King guest stars as herself and Melody Thomas Scott guest stars as Flora, the librarian.

"The Lighthouse" - When a corporation wants to buy out Lewis, Roberts+Roberts, Gordon calls in the board to vote, and Simon’s ex-wife and Sydney’s mom has the final say. Brad Garrett returns as Gordon Lewis and Marilu Henner guest stars as Simon’s ex-wife and Sydney’s mother.

Surviving Jack - "Rhythm Is a Dancer" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT)
It's homecoming night, but Frankie is bummed that his crush, Heather (guest star Lili Reinhart), is promised to another date and Rachel is protesting the school's "No Grinding" policy. Meanwhile, with the kids out of the house, Jack and Joanne (Rachael Harris) are planning a passionate night to themselves.

Community - "Basic Sandwich" (NBC, 8:00PM ET/PT) (Season Finale)
The group learns the history of Greendale’s first Dean, Russell Borchert (guest star Chris Elliott, “Eagleheart”), a reclusive, wealthy genius who disappeared amid a personal scandal in the 1970s. Once Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) and Hickey (Jonathan Banks) locate the school’s blueprints, Annie (Alison Brie) and Abed (Danny Pudi) lead the search for Borchert’s old computer lab, which was sealed off years ago. Subway returns to Greendale with plans to take over the campus for a Subway University and they enlist Chang (Ken Jeong) to secretly keep tabs on the study group. Meanwhile, Jeff (Joel McHale) and Britta (Gillian Jacobs) make a grown-up decision about their futures.

Parks and Recreation - "One in 8,000" (NBC, 8:30PM ET/PT)
Leslie (Amy Poehler) and Ben (Adam Scott) run a charity auction to raise funds for the unity concert. April (Aubrey Plaza) steps in to manage Andy’s (Chris Pratt) schedule, while Donna (Retta) asks Ron (Nick Offerman) for help with her ex-boyfriend (Special Guest Star KEEGAN MICHAEL-KEY).

Sirens - "Itsy Bitsy Spider" (USA Network, 10:00PM ET/PT)
Hank fears spiders; Brian encounters his suicidal doppelganger; Johnny gets payback.

Saint George - "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" (FX, 9:00PM ET/PT)
Hit Me with Your Best Shot - George kicks Alma out of his house and discovers he misses fighting with her.

Anger Management - "Charlie Catches Jordan in the Act" (FX, 9:30PM ET/PT)
Charlie goes ballistic when a drunk Jordan makes out with a prisoner.

Instant Mom
- "Buy Any Jeans Necessary" (Nick at Nite, 8:00PM ET/PT)
After Gabby is held for shoplifting for returning a pair of jeans with the sensor still on, Stephanie and Charlie take sides. Meanwhile, James is selling their unopened wedding presents to make extra cash.

See Dad Run - "See Dad Teach Emily to Drive" (Nick at Nite, 8:30PM ET/PT)
David takes Emily out driving, but his "coaching" makes her nervous, and he insists Emily's not ready for the responsibility. Later, Janie discovers Dr. Monkey Chunks was run over in the driveway, and now everyone is a suspect.

Complete TV Listings


Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of April 14) (All times Eastern unless noted)

Thursday, April 17

  • Billy Crystal (Soap) - Catch Billy on a repeat of The Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Tony Hale (Veep/Arrested Development) - Tony appears on a repeat of The Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS.
  • Brooklyn Decker (Friends with Better Lives) - Brooklyn is part of the guest panel on Chelsea Lately on E! at 11pm.
  • Tracy Morgan (30 Rock/The Tracy Morgan Show) - Tracy visits Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • Judy Greer (Mad Love/Arrested Development/Miss Guided) - Judy drops by Conan at 11pm on TBS.
  • David Duchovny (Californication) - David talks about the new season of Californication on LIVE! with Kelly and Michael, so check your listings.
  • Max Greenfield (New Girl) - Max speaks about the new film About Alex on LIVE! with Kelly and Michael, so check your listings.
  • Chelsea Handler (Are You There, Chelsea?) - Chelsea chats on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, so check your local listings.
  • Whoopi Goldberg (Whoopi/Bagdad Cafe) - Whoopi talks about her new Lifetime movie A Day Late and a Dollar Short on The Wendy Williams Show at 12am on BET or on your local stations.
  • Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie) - Edie talks about Nurse Jackie on NBC's Today between 7-9am.
  • Heather Graham (Californication) - Heather talks about Californication on NBC's Today in the 9am hour.
  • Jeremy Piven (Entourage/Ellen) - Jeremy is a guest on The Queen Latifah Show, so check your local listings.
  • Margo Martindale (The Millers) - Margo will be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
  • Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother/Doogie Howser, M.D.) - Neil discusses his new role on Broadway in Hedwig and the Angry Itch on ABC's Good Morning America between 7-9am.
  • Jason Alexander (Seinfeld/Listen Up) - Jason is a guest on Larry King Now at 2/5pm PT/ET on Ora.tv and Hulu.
  • Valerie Harper (Rhoda/The Mary Tyler Moore Show/Valerie) - Valerie talks about Signed, Sealed, Delivered on Fox & Friends on Fox News Channel. She will be on Fox News Radio at 8:45am. She takes a SiriusXM Radio tour with Perri Peltz Shade 45 with SWAY, Morrning Jolt with Larry Flick, Entertainment Weekly Radio between 9:35-11:20am.
  • Marlo Thomas (That Girl) - Marlo will be on Good Day New York on WNYW-Fox5 in New York at 9:20am.
  • Ana Ortiz (A.U.S.A./Kristin) - Ana chats with the ladies of The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT. She also talks about the new season of Devious Maids (premieres April 20 at 10pm on Lifetime) on Arise TV.