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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Is there simply too much good stuff on TV?

I’ve been saying this for ages, that as much crap as there is on TV, there’s still too much stuff worth watching to be able to watch it all. And now someone else is saying it: Josef Adalian in TV Week:

Truth is, there’s simply too much original content on TV these days. The explosion of quality scripted dramas on cable, combined with the Tribble-like multiplication of reality projects, has created an impossibly overcrowded environment for entertainment-seeking consumers.

Sure, the era of DVRs has allowed viewers to watch more TV than ever. But no machine yet invented has given audiences the power to add more hours to the day.

And yet this month in New York, most networks will continue to behave as if nothing has changed. They’ll announce schedules packed with very expensive programming, most of which will disappear in less than a year.

Even cable has been infected with the must-have-more disease.

Networks including A&E, TNT and USA seem to be in a race to see who can have a primetime schedule that looks more like that of one of the old Big Three broadcasters. Every day seems to bring news of another scripted cable drama getting ordered.

Do you feel overwhelmed by the options of quality, must-see — or would-see, if you had the time — TV? Is it hard to pick what to watch, and are you sorry when you miss something that other viewers are raving about? Is there simply too much good stuff on TV?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me.)

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  • Cate

    Yep. Every year, about 2 weeks into the new fall TV season, I have to just axe certain shows from my schedule – not because they’re not good, but because I just can’t watch that much – I don’t have the time. And that was when I had a DVR and satellite. Now that I’ve cut back to broadcast channels and whatever I can get online and from Netflix…same problem. My Netflix queue is crammed with full TV seasons of shows I missed and really want to see…and same problem: there is not enough time.

  • JoshDM

    My DVR records:

    Fringe (50% of the episodes are good)
    The Office
    30 Rock
    Scrubs (whoops!)
    Batman : Brave and the Bold
    Transformers Animated
    Brothers and Sisters (don’t blame me)
    The Soup (and all subsequent broadcasts for the week even though it’s the same episode, damn you Comcast!)
    Legend of the Seeker (my Herc/Xena fix)

    Used to get the ol’ BSG, but not interested in Caprica.

  • Althea

    For years I’ve told people that I will never have cable because I already watch way too much television, and simply can’t handle more. It would be great to see True Blood”. “Burn Notice”. “Dexter”. Lately we’ve been getting reruns of Monk on late-night weekends, and that’s been fun, but it just adds to the difficulty. Saturday it overlaps with both “MI5” (British “Spooks”) and “Doctor Who”.

    The past year has been particularly bad. The worst counterprogramming I’ve ever seen, considering on Mondays “Dancing with the Stars” conflicts with “Chuck”, “House”, and “Big Bang Theory”. (And after that it conflicts with “Heroes”.) Tuesdays, “DWTS” is up against “The Mentalist” and “Fringe”, both big hits in their first year. Wednesdays, “Lost” is competing with “Criminal Minds” and has contributed to “Life” meeting a sad early demise.

    It’s a strange situation. Shows have been historically yanked and moved when threatened by heavy hitters, but now they’re left to fend for themselves. Maybe the networks think that everybody has Tivo now, and can watch their shows any time they want. There are two problems with this, and MaryAnn, you’ve stated the first one: When the hell are you supposed to watch all these shows? I’m an Olympics junkie, and a few years ago a friend said, “Why don’t you tape it and watch it later?” instead of going out somewhere. I replied, “And when do I watch it?” After staying up all night watching the rest of the coverage (while they’re recapping the events I haven’t seen yet)?

    The other problem is that the nets still live by the prime-time ratings, which means that an excellent and wildly popular show like “Chuck” is on the bubble for renewal right this very minute.

    It would be okay if the entire schedule were like this, so that you could shrug and say, “There’s just an embarrassment of riches,” then decide to live with your best choices. But when a good show is cancelled and you look at another hour filled with dreck – or you look at an aging show that has long passed its prime (see “CSI Miami”) – you wonder why that show couldn’t have been plugged in there.

    I have an extra problem right now, what with the change to HD and my old VCR not able to handle the digital channels with the extended numbers, like 5.1 instead of 5. So I’m missing a whole lot of stuff I want to watch, while also doing a whole lot of channel-flipping, which is also maddening because of the 3-second delay when the TV changes channels.

    In all of this is the knowledge that there are people out there creating more good programs than we’ve ever had! How must THEY feel, watching their shows’ ratings struggle against the networks’ ideas of what the public wants?

    This is why I am steadfastly in favor of the British model of program production. Write a good show, your best episodes up to the point where you run out of steam, or ideas, or situations, and then STOP. Get admired. Get successful. Do something else for a while. Then go back to that show, when you have some more good ideas and fresh dialogue. NEXT year. Some of the British shows go on for years and years, with only 6 or 7 episodes per year. Even the seemingly interminable “Are You Being Served?” was done this way. (Betcha I just surprised some people. 13 years, 10 series runs, 69 eps. And no “story arcs” either.)

    “DWTS” is a limited-run show. That’s its nature. It’s over in X weeks, so I can at least look forward to catching up with, say, “House” in reruns. But we have to watch another series faithfully for the entire season lest the network cancel it. (And heaven forfend that series is on Fox.) The writers have to come up with an entire season whether or not they have the material for one.

    Reading the viewer comments on TV websites like E!Online is instructive (for as long as you can stomach them anyway). They say that a certain ep is crap, or great, and what it tells you is that the series is not consistent in quality. If the writers and producers were allowed to limit their output for a single series to the number of episodes that it took to get their story told, they would almost certainly not produce the network-requisite 22 or so eps that is US standard. And they’d be able to concentrate on doing their best work. And we’d have fewer hours of TV to keep up with. And we could go to bed on time.

  • Bill

    I’m in the other camp. I feel underwhelmed by the options on tv. I’m excited for new Doctor Who and The L Word, but outside of that I can’t find anything appealing enough to draw me away from The West Wing and Studio 60 dvds or Monty Python’s Flying Circus on Netflix.

  • Saladinho

    Probably, but only in the sense that our time is also taken up with other media, such as books, comics, music, movies, Net surfing and the like.

    I think we don’t realize how much good tv is on, largely because personal favorites (such as Pushing Daisies) get cancelled, and it makes it harder to try other new shows, thinking they’ll suffer the same fate.

  • I try not to watch too much tv, especially when I am taking classes.

    That fails sometimes, and I get hooked on a show (happened with the new Doctor, Heroes and I willingly got hooked on Torchwood).

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