Each week, I eagerly look forward to the television ratings wrap-up (I like Nielsen ratings, leave me alone). And each week I am blown away that CBS has once again overwhelmingly kicked every other network in the rear. And then each week, I ask myself the same question, "Who in the hell is watching CBS?"
Two decades back, CBS was known to cater to the seniors out there with shows like Murder, She Wrote and Newhart. Even moving into the 1990s, CBS still felt overtly mature. Shows that were big then were the Dick Van Dyke vehicle Diagnosis Murder, Touched By an Angel and Jake and the Fatman. Even then, I wondered who was watching these shows besides my grandmother. She loved the Fatman. Was CBS on to something? Was catering to an older audience what was going to keep them afloat?
Through the 2000s, television unfortunately moved to all-reality-all-the-time and many of the networks are either still embracing this or struggling to get past it. CBS, however, never jumped on the bandwagon. True, in 2000 CBS premiered two reality shows, Survivor and Big Brother and today, in 2012, Survivor is still one of the highest-rated shows amongst their prime-time programming. Yes, CBS has had a reality spurt here and there -- The Amazing Race, Undercover Boss, to name a few -- but you would be hard-pressed to find even one of the multitude of "we will come in and film your life/mock you/make money off of you" programs found on the other networks. CBS doesn't even have a singing or celebrity-driven competition!
What does CBS air nowadays? CSI and more CSI and then some other shows that might as well be CSI such as NCIS, Blue Bloods, Criminal Minds and 48 Hour Mystery. Basically CBS is the home to the cop drama.
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We can scoff all we want, but people totally dig cop dramas! They have been making the grade since Hill Street Blues came on the scene and changed television forever. To its credit, CBS does also air some heavy-hitters in the sitcom genre such as How I Met Your Mother and a little show that many of us once watched, Two and a Half Men. Toss in the wildly popular drama The Good Wife, and CBS has a fairly broad spectrum of programming right about now.
But are the other networks so far off? Yup. Take ABC, for example; this week you can tune in just about any evening and find either a reality show about people making business pitches, the game show Wipeout or the overplayed Bachelor. While NBC has tried to ramp up their sitcom lineup, they keep clouding it with ratings and critics foes like Whitney and Are You There, Chelsea? (Even CBS got the better Whitney show, Two Broke Girls)
While I cannot say any of the programming on CBS particularly appeals to me, CBS doesn't care about my niche market, hipster, sentimentality. They are dealing with the popular vote. They are getting the old folks' home to tune in, but they are also getting the 25-40-year-olds as well. They are taking it all.
To its credit, CBS has stuck with the tried and true. People will always fall back on scripted narratives because we all just want a good story, even if that story is about a cop solving a murder...again. Other networks take note, reality programming is going the way of the dinosaur, better rehire some of those screenwriters.