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11 November 2010

Pleasing Republicans Necessary For Big-League TV Success

by John Nolte

James Hibberd over at THR has written a terrific article that should cause all kinds of heartburn throughout the left-wing fever swamp we call Hollywood. No one should be surprised that we Republicans like television, but what is surprising is that while Democrats flock in larger numbers to niche programming such as “30 Rock,” ”Mad Men,” and “Dexter,” pleasing we righties appears to be one of the key factors in creating a mainstream ratings success:

[I]f you look at the list of broadcast shows that are Republican favorites, it closely mirrors the Nielsen top 10 list, whereas Democrats tend to gravitate toward titles likely to have narrower audiences.

To Hollywood, the data suggest a potentially disquieting idea: The TV industry is populated by liberals, but big-league success may require pleasing conservatives. …

“Historically, the shows that have done better are populist, mainstream and give us confidence in our public institutions,” TV historian Tim Brooks says. “For a while in the 1960s and early 1970s, shows started representing social rebellion, but broadcast quickly reverted to Happy Days.”

What has changed is the explosion on cable that has allowed networks to appeal to more specific viewpoints, from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show With Jon Stewart to Fox News’ Glenn Beck. Moreover, if you’re a liberal viewer in a major city (which typically correlates with higher education) and you have such titles as Mad Men and Dexter to watch each week, are you going to also be interested in seeing a paint-by-numbers crime procedural on broadcast or a laugh-track-boosted sitcom? On the scripted side, at least, the explosion of complex dramas on cable may have ceded some of the broadcast ground to what one might label Republican tastes.

Funny how it’s the left who screams the loudest about the loss of the old network monopolies that gave concentrated power to a very few, and yet they seem to be the ones benefiting most from the choices created by an ever-growing cable landscape. Another takeaway:

John Fetto, senior marketing manager at Experian Simmons [says], “Looking at the Democrats side, I don’t mean to make light of it, but they seem to like shows about damaged people. Those are the kind of shows Republicans just stay away from.”

Before the left dislocates something patting themselves on the back over how complicated and interesting their television choices are, both “Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami” and “90210″ place in their top five with the relentlessly sleazy (last I saw) “Law & Order: SVU” not far behind.

Really, Lefties? Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami?

If anything, we righties seem to just want to escape … as long as that escapism doesn’t involve someone who spells “Chloe” with a “k.”

The most disturbing news for the intolerant left is probably that The Learning Channel appears to be taking this reality seriously and ”Sarah Palin’s Alaska” is just the start of a line up of new shows aimed at the “Heartland.” More programming is coming and if they happen to be successful…

Oh no, one channel in 250 aimed at Red Staters! Quick, destroy it! Would anyone be surprised? After all, we have one news network out of ten and look at how unhinged that makes them.

So, what have we learned today?

We’ve learned Republicans like winners. The shows might be considered fluffy, but they’re generally programs that make people feel good. If you’re a broadcast network executive weighing whether to buy a show, you might ask your uncle who voted twice for George W. Bush if he likes the idea. We’ve learned Democrats are, depending on your perspective, discriminating viewers who prefer highly original, well-written series or are cynics who enjoy watching jerks.

Fair enough. But I think it’s also safe to say that the right-wing popularity of programs like “Modern Family,” “Desperate Housewives,” and “Two and a Half Man” pretty much puts to rest the lie that we’re a bunch of prudes looking only for reaffirmation of our own worldview. Here’s a clip from the third most popular Republican show.

Not sure where I would land on this list. Over the past fifteen years the only television I’ve watched has been “The Sopranos,” “The Wire” (the greatest television I’ve ever seen), “Lost,” and “24.” When I do watch television these days it’s most any true crime documentary I can find, ranging from forensics to prison escapes and then there’s my beloved my DVD collections of “Married With Children, “Seinfeld,” “Sanford and Son,” “Rockford Files,” “Honeymooners,” and the original “Twilight Zone” and “Outer Limits” — shows I can return to again and again after only a couple of years in-between.

If it’s any consolation, I know I’m missing a lot of great TV, but free time isn’t a premium in my life and so the tried and true are my comfort food — oh, and movies. Lots and lots of movies.

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