Sunday, November 02, 2008

Afternoon TV just ain't what it used to be ... (a sign of hope for newspapers)

This blog post is not about people watching less television and reading more newspapers. I'm not THAT naive. Instead, it's about my revelation today that the current mainstream media vs. the Internet paradigm shift seems to have shades of the network vs. cable battles from approximately two decades ago.

I seem to (vaguely) recall the doom and gloom claim among the networks when cable started to grab hold. I remember celebrating when our rural home was finally plugged in. I remember switching over from network mainstays to Nickelodeon and Disney distractions.

And perhaps this kind of behavior IS to blame for the fact that this week's network television schedule is not riddled with the types of programming that beckoned me off the bus during my childhood afterschool hours. Things like: The Smurfs (it's their 50th anniversary this year!), Gummi Bears, Scooby Doo, Thundercats, Animaniacs, Small Wonder (not a cartoon, but close!), Ducktales, Heathcliff, My Little Pony, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Talespin, Inspector Gadget, She-Ra, He-Man, Jem, Voltron, Muppet Babies, Transformers, Darkwing Duck and others. (I even remember someone I knew in high school had a Darkwing Duck TATTOO -- wonder if that's still there ...)

A peek at this coming week's afternoon television on the major networks includes soap operas, the news, talk shows and sit-com re-runs. The closest thing to a cartoon is King of the Hill and The Simpsons at 5 on Fox. Oh, and some Cosby Show re-runs. Seriously. Instead of Brainy Smurf and Strawberry Shortcake, we get Dr. Phil and Tyra.

The public television stations still have their good thing going, but definitely cater to the younger child with items like Arthur, Reading Rainbow and Curious George.

Afternoon programming for kids is still out there, it's just that cable has taken over all facets of afternoon television for the younger set with fare like The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, SpongeBob Square Pants, Total Drama Island, Chowder, etc. They're not that bad. If I were a kid nowadays, it would likely be this set of shows that I talked about on the bus with friends about who got home in time to see what, who got to watch what, which were your favorites, which show's paraphernalia toys did you get for your birthday, etc. So it's there -- you just have to have cable.

Nowadays, it's the doom and gloom among traditional media that the Internet is killing them. I remember when we finally got fed up with dial-up and got a high speed connection. And I know that I've started to read more newspapers online, and watch more TV online, and stream my radio online.

And it's true: The explosion of the Internet is hurting mainstream media, it's pretty obvious right now as more and more newspapers are putting significant percentages of their staffs on the chopping block. But is it the death of mainstream media? I think not.

We are in transition. (And ask any mom who's gone through labor au natural: Transition sucks.) We are still wondering what content is best played where, when, how and by whom? Good question. If we knew the answer, we wouldn't have the questions.

We'll have to wait and see while everything sorts itself out. But traditional media will not die; it will evolve. (Perhaps heavily relying on the very medium that wounded it so very deeply.)

I dare say that when we look back 20 years from now, there will still be television ... there will still be radio ... there will still be print media.

But we will have reason to be nostalgic.

It won't be the same.

And nothing ever is.


Sewer-Sewist said...

I hear you! And don't forge the old Channel 12 that ran classic movies from 3-5 p.m. during the week. I saw the last hour of every single Humphrey Bogart movie when I was in, like, the fourth grade!


steet said...

You couldn't be more right. In fact, I have read many articles about different people saying the same things : why did the TV channels let such poor content and not come back to better shows?

In any case, since you mentioned it, I have a Talespin site that you may want to check...