Opinionated Babble Dept. - Kill Ugly Television?  [Back to Mods In The Key of X or Harsh Realm]

Scully and Mulder confront a witless network executive. (Fox)

By FLAtRich
[From the October 9, 2002 Edition of eXoNews.]

Hollywood October 9, 2002 (eXoNews) - No, I'm not one of those people who "never watch TV" ranting about what Bucky Fuller once labeled as "chewing gum for the mind." Regulars here at eXoNews know that I'm quite the opposite - I'm a passionate fan of genre TV shows present and past.

I've lived with TV since we were both black and white infants and I still love settling down in front of my Sony with a bowl of corn chips to watch Buffy protect folks from the denizens of the hellmouth, or Captain Archer and his crew explore a new world, or Johnny Smith puzzle out a Dead Zone vision, or Mulder and Scully do it again on Sci Fi Channel.

Hell, I'm such a long-time fan that I can laugh out loud at the stupid TV questions on Beat The Geeks. I was a TV Geek before that kid was even born! Go on, TV Geek, tell me who played Colonel Edward McCauley in the TV series Men Into Space? (No clicking!)

But things have changed in TVLand, buckaroos. The thinking audience has left the living room. The Big Networks have malformed our TV young. They only care which Barbie or Ken gets voted off the island. They don't see that there are no winners. All is lost.

Forget what Bucky Fuller said. Today's audience can barely chew gum and watch TV at the same time. The short attention span of yesterday has been replaced by the no attention span of today. The vast wasteland has expanded off into the Twilight Zone.

No wonder Firefly hasn't flown and Push, Nevada has no pull!

Today I stumbled across the ultimate solution, folks. Well, maybe, maybe not, but here it comes: why even bother trying to woo the mass majority network audience with carefully scripted, beautifully acted, expensively produced, complex genre programs when there is an easier alternative?

Why not produce genre series directly for DVD and VHS? That's right! Bypass the little tube and its quiz show and sitcom Nielsen families, 18-49 demographic driven sponsors, witless network executives, Puritan network censors, and clueless TV Guide critics. Shoot the 13 episodes and put them right up there on the video store racks in a boxed set, man!

Zap! Broadcast/cable TV eliminated from the equation!

Can it be done? Why, sure, Video Ranger! Anyone who rents tapes or DVDs occasionally comes across a "direct to video" feature. Those movies never make it into theaters because they either suck too bad to get a theatrical distribution deal or because they were only a tax shelter in the first place (ala "Springtime for Hitler" in The Producers.)

Very few series are created directly for the DVD and VHS audience. There is kids stuff, sure, and the history of surfing and Anime and other specialty sets, but not quality genre drama. Shows like Trek and Buffy and Sopranos and Farscape only come out on DVD after they run on TV in the USA.

So why wait? I'll bet those box sets sell pretty well, don't they? Not just in the USA, either. I bet they sell in places where they've never even seen Farscape on TV.

"But what about sales?" Big Bad Executive Producer says. "You still have to get the audience!"

Is that really more difficult than getting people to find your show on USA Network or TNT or UPN or Sci Fi? Current ratings for almost all network genre TV shows seem to prove otherwise. Enterprise had lousy numbers for its season premiere. So did Buffy. Angel was lower than expected. Newcomers like Firefly and Push and Twilight Zone have failed to grab the overnights. Haunted is almost on the chopping block.

If Spidey can sell, so can Angel or Farscape

Only Smallville really pulled its own, but nothing genre is flying high on TV this season - not even Clark Kent. The genre numbers began dropping off last season, and they haven't made a comeback.

Funny, because people sure flocked to Spiderman. Folks are buying Lord of the Rings and renting science fiction and horror movie DVDs every day. It's not like they aren't out there.

You gotta wonder if it's TV that's turning them off.

You gotta wonder what would happen if, say, Warners tried a little experiment and released the next season of Angel, or even Smallville, direct to DVD without ever airing it on the WB? You gotta wonder if The Lone Gunmen would still be around if Fox had done that two years ago. Or Harsh Realm. Or Invisible Man. Or _________________ [fill in your own favorite cancelled show here, any era.]

The time has come for creative producers to take a chance at alternative routes into the genre living room. Broadcast is trashed. Basic cable is trashed. Pay cable - well, it's mostly those same old movies month after month, isn't it? - nearly trashed.

This year's Emmys made Fraser the "most honored program in TV history". With all due respect to those lovable old codgers still limping around the Fraser sets, doesn't that tell you something?

TV is a dead horse, man. Time for a new ride.

Agree? Disagree? Opinions to  

And for the TV Geek, the answer is here - Men Into Space (1956) - http://us.imdb.com/Details?0052493