Tuned In

Will the Last Person to Watch Television Please Turn Off the Set?

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Working on a print piece again, so the blogging may be a bit scanty today too. (Writing about TV, you learn in this job, tends to get in the way of actually watching TV, much less blogging about it.) According to the New York Times, however, this is probably not a big deal, because it turns out that you do not care about television anymore. Post-strike, broadcast network primetime ratings are down—way down, strikingly so even in comparison to the falloffs of recent seasons. Among the explanations:

* Daylight savings time now begins earlier. Verdict: No more convincing this year than when they trotted it out last year.

* Dramas, which are generally suffering more than comedies, are more vulnerable to a strike interruption because viewers lose track of their serial plots whereas they can easily jump back in to a sitcom. Verdict: Getting warmer. But does not account for the falloff in dramas like CSI and House, which are much more episodic and don’t really require watching every episode to understand them. But makes the decision to push Heroes, Chuck, Dirty Sexy Money et al. off until next fall seem even more brilliant!

* DVRs and other alternative ways of watching, are cutting in to regular primetime viewing. Verdict: Plausible—and squares with what some Tuned In commenters have said—but again does not explain why they should suddenly be cutting into viewership so much more than in the fall.

* The strike gave viewers permission to break up with shows they were cooling to anyway—be they aging series or new shows they were lukewarm on to begin with. Verdict: Although the article makes this argument only briefly, bingo.

There’s a good chance that all these explanations are correct to some degree, and that this defeat has many fathers. But this is a good place to turn the question on you. Why do you hate TV, America?