Over the last twenty years technology has driven a shift in TV-viewing patterns. We used to watch shows self-contained weekly episodes, but now we tend to binge serialized stories and entire seasons of TV. In the course of watching and re-watching shows, I’ve noticed that some programs were just never meant to be ‘binged.’ I’ll start with a show I like (eg cop shows or sitcoms) and as I watch them I get progressively more frustrated. I think the flaws and weaknesses in the show get magnified when you watch them back-to-back. When we had to wait a week between episodes, it was easier to overlook how formulaic and repetitive these things are. Then I read an article that mentioned how cop shows are deliberately made formulaic so that busy housewives can follow them even when they are distracted with some other task.
This was kind of an epiphany for me. I had always assumed that the goal of making a TV show was to make the best show possible. In my mind, this means every TV show should aspire to be ‘Breaking Bad’ or ‘Game of Thrones.’ If a show was bad, (repetitive, formulaic, etc) it was probably because the production was inept. It never occurred to me that these shows were deliberately aiming low.
So I thought that was interesting until I was in the hospital the other day watching daytime TV. Their was some kind of stupid house-flipper renovating show, and I was thinking ‘Who actually watches this?’ I mean, it’s not like there’s some kind of dramatic reveal or cliffhanger ending to compel us to watch. Same things goes for the ‘Price is Right.’ That show just baffles me.
Then it clicked in my head. Those kinds of shows are deliberately crafted for hospital waiting rooms. They don’t play serialized dramas during the day because that’s not what the target audience wants. They deliberately make these shows as bland and inoffensive and forgettable as possible, because places like hospitals and dentists and old folks’ homes want something mindless to occupy people without requiring conscious thought or emotional investment. It’s like the TV equivalent of elevator music.
Has anyone else noticed this? Am I correct in my thinking here?