Trying to shift the course of TV, one survey at a time
As much as any intelligent person tries to deny it, television is wonderful.
Yes, brain-rotting television, the good ol’ sloth box, is a wonderful thing. Imagine a childhood devoid of Simpsons or talking sponges (and other yellow characters). No He-Men, no wacky neighbors, no Carmen Sandiegos, no Screech. The current ’80s and ’90s nostalgia economy would consist solely of slap bracelets.
But, this was television before Internet. BACK THEN (ugh, here we go) you could keep up with your Power Rangers and whatnot and still have plenty of time for sunshine and exercise. Television was like a practice run for going outside. You see an episode of your favorite show, it fills your head with all kinds of play scenarios, then you run outside and try to lift the manhole covers off the street and join the Ninja Turtles. Those things probably weigh 20 pounds; good workout for a 10-year-old.
Television has changed now. It’s not just the idiot box – it’s the idiot phone, idiot tablet, idiot laptop, idiot Google Glass (though it’s hard not to look like an idiot wearing Google Glass).
So, how will all of those lovely advertising companies know what kinds of Nerf the kids want now? How will they know what color soda will make you open the fridge and pick Sunny D?
How will the television executives know what inanimate object to make sentiment? Who will be the next big yellow cartoon character? And for the adults, how will they know what species of housewife causes the most drama?
That’s where the good people at Nielsen step in. These guys have been measuring our television intake for like 50 years, taking notes, then increasing our screaming celebrity chefs and sending brooding detectives with dark secrets to the showers.
I’ve been a television watcher since I was old enough to be confused by all the Polish jokes on Cleveland’s “Big Chuck and Lil’ John.” A devoted disciple of the USA Cartoon Express and Channel 43 Kids Club, I too spent many after-school hours playing video games, then watching those video games in cartoon form have adventures that don’t include me making them fall into a hole over and over. My Nickelodeon pedigree is without question.
So, as a member of the coveted 18-35 year old consumer market, Nielsen decided to make me part of their family. Meaning, they sent me a questionnaire and five crisp one-dollar bills (always a welcome sight the day before payday). In exchange, they may count on me to give them feedback about what, where and how I watch TV.
This is a duty not to be taken lightly. As a true television connoisseur, I looked to “Roseanne” for advice; when the Conners were chosen as a Nielsen family, Roseanne made Dan and the kids watch all PBS and the MacNeil / Lehrer report. They were going to help change television, and the world, for the better!
I know what you’re thinking (no really, I do; “The Mentalist” is based on me); Nielsen ratings are useless! What with your Hulus and all, nobody actually watches TV live!
I work nights; I rarely watch live TV unless I catch a glimpse of SportsTime Ohio at work. The DVR and Netflix are my window to the outside world of house-flipping and mismatched roommates. Luckily, the new Nielsen system seems to be accounting for viewing across devices and mediums.
So, here’s my chance to make a difference! Neil deGrasse Tyson, I’m all yours. PBS’s “NOVA,” I promise you won’t get shoved off my DVR memory by 20 episodes of “Tosh.0” anymore. Goodbye, restaurant reality shows. I have to pave the way for intelligent television that will turn kids into string-theorists instead of teen moms.
Will it make a difference? Can one viewer help turn Honey Boo-Boos into Bill Nyes? What does the future hold for television? Read all about it in your local newspaper. Then get outside and find those Ninja Turtles.
What’s your favorite TV show? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.