So, what's on TV anyway?

Over here, I got into, what my husband charmingly calls a pissing contest with Whammo over ‘positive’ TV shows. Whammo felt that we were dissing the “One show on TV with a positive message.” My reply:

Whammo requested a cite. Seeking an excuse to blow off homework, I jumped at the chance.

I spent several hours with a TV Guide categorizing television shows. I decided (seeing as how I’m eventually going to have to do some damn homework) to narrow my research to one day – Thursday, March 8. For the purposes of TV Guide, ‘Thursday’ is between 5AM Thursday, March 8 and 4:30 AM Friday, March 9. Some specifics – I counted shows not hours. Furthermore, I counted every instance when a show aired – Howard Stern, for instance, aired 4 times. I did not count movies, infomercials or shopping shows. Nor did I count any shows airing on Pay Channels – just your basic cable stuff. Here are my results:

Positive programming:
News and Information: The largest category and the one taking in the most subtypes. Under this umbrella I counted: local and national news, newsmagazines, documentries, business and finance shows, ‘old style’ and morning talk shows, educational-type programs on the History, Discovery, A&E type channels and how-to shows from HGTV and the Food channel. Also, anything else that seemed to fall under the “info” or “edu” -tainment category. There were 269 shows under this category.

Religion: Yes, Virginia, there is religous programming on TV. Even on Thursdays. I used the “religion” heading because that is what TV Guide calls this programming. However, it should be called “christian programming,” because it is, without exception, Christian. Go figure. There were 41 of these shows.

Sports: Televised sporting events, sports commentaries and other sports shows – including ‘extreme sports,’ fishing and camping shows. Also exercise shows. 77 examples.

Kids programming: Sesame Street-type educational programming, Teletubbie’-type pre-school programming, and general ‘kid-shows’ ranging from Kipper to RugRats to Power Rangers. Some will say that much of this programming fails the ‘positive’ test due to violence. I disagree. Super-hero cartoons (the most ‘violent’) are basically about the triumph of good over evil – and good always triumphs. I call this positive. Often cheesy, but positive. 128 examples.

Game shows: This category gave me some problems – I originally called it ‘neutral.’ Finally, I decided to stick them in the ‘positive’ pile. Some are educational, after all. And most encourage a degree of interaction from the viewer (playing along) that I am going to call positive. 31 examples.

Sitcoms: Yes, sitcoms are positive. They are all about family – either nuclear families (which are, almost without exception, intact, BTW) or ‘manufactured’ families made up of friends or co-workers existing together in a degree of inter-connectedness I have rarely ever seen in real life. People who love each other, help each other and contantly strive to do the right thing? If that ain’t positive, I don’t know what is. 175 examples.

Dramas: These are the prime-time shows that get the hit for violence – especially the cop shows. However, they don’t meet my criteria for negative programming. As with kid’s super-hero shows they are all about good triumphing over evil. And, good usually wins – often after a struggle that makes the fight even more heroic. Think NYPD Blue here. Also, relationship and family dramas, which met the same criteria for positive-ness that sitcoms did. 95 examples.

So there are 816 total examples of Positive Programming scheduled to appear on television on Thursday, March 8.

This is pretty long. I think I’ll list Negative Programming under a second post.

Lots of subtypes, here. I like some of these shows, BTW. Many of them are damned entertaining. In fact, many of them beat the hell out of many of the ‘positive’ shows in regards to quality and entertainment value. However, they are content-free when it comes to Positive Values.

Reality shows: Survivor washed up here. I like it, I watch it, but I’m sure no one will disagree that it’s basically prurient. Also, COPS, Jackass, Real World – you all know the type of thing I mean here. 8 examples.

Tabloid shows: Hard Copy and a show based on n the National Inquirer. Also, much of what airs on E! – Celebrity Homes and shows that gush over super-Models – stuff like that. Prurient and content-free. 13 examples.

Comedy shows: Some of my favorites washed up here. SNL, The Daily Show, The Man Show even Whose Line is It Anyway?. Comedy shows have no agenda other than to amuse. They don’t attempt to be Politically Correct or Positive. There has never been a “very special episode” of Kids in the Hall. Comedy shows just want to be funny. BTW, this is where South Park would have been if it aired on Thursdays. 24 examples.

‘New-style’ talk shows: The Jerry-Springer-esque talk shows, natch. Prurient, sensational and content-free. 26 examples.

Court shows: Not Court-TV shows (they would be in News/Information on the positive pile) – Judge Judy/Mills Lane/Whomever. Back in the Judge Wapner era, I wouldn’t have called these Negative. Nowadays, however, they seem to cater to the same Springer-esqe, watch-the-mutant viewing impulse that leads people to reality and ‘new-style’ talk-show programming. Plus, you won’t believe how many of these there are --32!

Soaps: Someone could probably make a case for these being positive… But, after careful thought I decided to put them in the prurient, gratuitous-sex-filled, content-free category. 17 of 'em.

Psi-crap: Crossing Over with John Edwards, Secrets of the Pyrimids and such crap as that. Also, The Curse of Tutenkamen on A&E or Discover made this pile – possibly unfairly. I’ll try to remember to watch it on Thursday – if it turns out to be a balanced and skeptical show then I’ll remove it from this pile and add it into News/Information. 9 examples.

A few special cases: I selected 3 sitcoms to be placed here with Comedy instead of in the Positive pile with the other sitcoms. Seinfeld, Just Shoot Me and Married with Children. Why? Because they are all more concerned with being funny than being Correct. All 3 are funny as hell, of course. In an amoral way (not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Also, I stuck Beverly Hills, 90210 in the Soap stack, as I consider it to be a prime-time soap rather than a family or relationship drama. Melrose Place and Dawson’s Creek would have met the same fate, had they been on Thursdays.

Finally, I want to mention Howard Stern which appeared 4 mind-boggling times. Howard is so prurient and content-free that he ought to have his own category. However, I stuck him in the ‘New-style’ Talk pile. In hopes that one of Jerry’s guests will break a chair over his head or piss on him or something.

So, total Negative Programming for Thursday was 129 shows. The Positive/Negative ratio is, what? 6.3 to 1? I consider myself vindicated. Now, I’m gonna go read a book.

That is a lot of work. What kind of homework do you have anyways to set aside to devote to this?

Haven’t looked at the TV guide but I would think a couple more sitcoms could fit in the negative side. New programs are both positive and negative. They are very informational but often just report the news and a great deal newsworthy is negative. This can get depressing and affect people’s outlook on life. So, news fits into both. Still I agree that there are many more positive shows than negative ones.

One last thing, where do you draw the line between game shows and reality shows? Isn’t Survivor just a glorified game show and COPS a news show where good overcomes evil? Both should be in the negative area but it becomes hard to judge where the reality shows belong. Reality shows generally fall into the other formats but their delivery is different than manufactured TV.

Well, look-a-here! All I had to do was whine a little, and someone came to my thread!

Your comments and criticisms are noted, Wolverine. I agree with you that there are probably a few more sitcoms that would make the negative stack a la Seinfeld – I just couldn’t think of any more. I kind of meant this to be a work in progress type of thing – If someone can make a case for a particular show being in a different slot than where I put it, I’m happy to listen.

I do think that straight news shows are basically positive – even when the news itself is negative. Knowledge is power, IMO. Hard Copy-type tabloid shows are the exeption. I called these prurient – people don’t watch them for information but for titillation. Same thing with COPS and Survivor. These were judgement calls, of course.

As for the homework I was avoiding – I don’t remember. I was probably avoiding the research for my Politics term paper. Either that or avoiding studying for a Psych test.

Religion? I hate to be the turd in the punch bowl, but much of the “religious” programming on televsion could easily fit in your negative category of “Psi-crap,” if Psi-crap includes the panoply of psuedoscience.

Nice work though, Jess.

Sure, UncleBeer. I had to struggle not to include all the religious shows in the PsiCrap catagory. But I rose above the impulse. Actually, I found the number of religious shows on that day to be the second biggest surprise in my survey. After all, most of the people around here who complain about the lack of “positive values” on TV also complain of a “lack of Christian programming.” And yet, there were more religous programs on that Thursday than there were shows in any of my “negative” catagories. I have waited in vain for Wildest Bill or FriendofGod to come in here and comment…

Another time, I might do a survey on the quality of TV programming – quite a different thing than values. Conventional wisdom is that TV is a vast wasteland of worthless garbage. Now, I’m not so sure. It’s an interesting question. Maybe next time I have a paper due or a big test to study for…