Dogma Alert

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

I Want My God-TV

"The medium is the message" ~ Marshall McLuhan

"Prayer is the last refuge of the scoundrel" ~ Lisa Simpson

"Television... the barbiturate of the masses" ~ Relic

Leave it to the producers at NBC to turn to the loyal boob-tube-watching fundamentalist bloc in a last ditch attempt to boost ratings of their otherwise dismal and pathetic network. It surely seems like a sad Sign of the Times when the rabid far-right bible thumpers dictate what is programmed on the mainstream networks.

The closer our world moves towards all-out entropy in these final days of the American empire, the chasm between the myopic and ideologically rigid true-believers and everyone else grows larger by the minute. If the networks want to squeeze every last penny out of their advertisers by appealing top the lowest common denominator of human thought, then I say let 'em.

Outside of CBC News, the Simpsons, and the Daily Show, I hardly watch the idiot box anymore. And that suits me just fine.

Stay tuned....

May 18, 2005

It's a story as old as St. Augustine: You revel in sexual depravity and wine, finding pleasure and profit in all kinds of heresies frowned on by the Parents Television Council, until one day you discover everything has spiraled out of control and your ratings among the 18-to-49 demographic have plummeted. So you get religion.

If it worked for Saul of Tarsus, Augustine of Hippo and George W. of Texas, then NBC must figure it'll work for a struggling TV network. Hence "Revelations," a biblically themed drama the network began airing in April. On Monday, when NBC previewed its fall slate for advertisers, it announced a new reality show called "Three Wishes," an inspirational hour to be hosted by Christian music superstar Amy Grant. Also coming this fall is a sitcom called "My Name Is Earl," which isn't overtly religious (its main character sees the light after winning the lottery, not finding Jesus) but has a theme any born-again Christian could embrace: An ex-con is determined to turn his life around and make amends to all the people he has wronged.

It's a bit of a switch for a network that soared to the top of the ratings with such racy fare as "Friends" and "Will & Grace." But NBC, like all the other broadcast networks, is struggling to find its way in an era of fierce competition from cable and the Internet, not to mention regulatory pressure from a Congress and Federal Communications Commission that seem to be taking their orders directly from Jerry Falwell. After years of dominance, NBC finds itself in fourth place in a four-way race for young adult viewers. As lost souls often do, it's putting its trust in God.

The strategy could work. The recent flexing of Christian political muscle shows there are a lot more believers out there than the mainstream media used to recognize. This audience is grossly underserved. Aside from "Joan of Arcadia" on CBS, in which the main character talks to God, it's tough to find Christian content on mainstream television. But then, there's probably a good reason for that; TV viewers, even devout Christian ones, want to be titillated when they turn on the tube. Sermons are for Sunday mornings, not prime time.

The most popular shows on TV tend to be the raciest. Most of last season's new sitcoms have tanked, with one notable exception: CBS' "Two and a Half Men," which spent much of the season as the top-rated comedy among young adults. The show is about a boozing womanizer (played with admirable realism by Charlie Sheen) forced to live with his uptight brother, who split with his wife after she began to suspect she was a lesbian. "Revelations," meanwhile, is struggling and may not return this fall.

The NBC slate hasn't attracted much good buzz at this week's "upfront" presentations to advertisers. But the New York Times' TV critic is slavering over "Beauty and the Geek," a coming reality show on the WB in which sexy airheads are matched with brilliant, hopeless nerds. Now that's television.


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