Monday, February 06, 2012

It was a great Super Bowl and all, but...

Just before the kickoff of last night's big game, a national sports business writer tweeted that last year's game received roughly about a 66 percent share (meaning, 66 percent of all TV sets turned on at that time were tuned to the Super Bowl).

"Record?" he asked, then mentioned that the final episode of "M*A*S*H" garnered a 77 percent share, quickly adding, "different era."

I fired back, "Yeah, that was back when episodic television was good and viewers had taste."

Then, to be fair, I added, "and, granted, just a handful of channels."

I'm not going to go on and on about my affinity for "M*A*S*H." I've told you about that before.

But, it got me to thinking, it really WAS a different era, both good and bad.

Oh, not all episodic television is terrible. I love "The Big Bang Theory." For some reason, we keep DVR-ing "Hawaii Five-O." I think "Friday Night Lights," which wrapped last year, is one of the best dramas ever presented on American television.

And, let's face it, TV has always aired its share of junk. ("My Mother the Car" anyone?)

But, by and large, I miss the smart, sophisticated sitcom. Think about two MTM hits from the '70s -- "Mary Tyler Moore" and "The Bob Newhart Show." (And, of course, the previously mentioned "M*A*S*H," developed by Larry Gelbart from the movie). I've taken to watching those old Newhart shows -- the series in which he plays the psychologist -- to relax at night. I'm tickled to report it is as good as it ever was. Only the fashions and technology, of course, are dated. Good comedy never gets old.

Here's something else that makes me sort of sad. Somebody threw up a poll result last night saying the Super Bowl is the No. 1 fan favorite sports championship game. The World Series is No. 2 -- at something like 13 percent. (The number may be even lower.) As a baseball guy, that breaks my heart.

Here's why I think football is now the real American pastime. First and foremost, I give credit to the NFL for hiring marketing geniuses. Second, I give them credit for avoiding a disaster like the 1994 baseball strike.

But the third reason tells the tale. Our collective attention spans have dwindled to near nothing. Blame it on TV, sound bites, video games, texting, Xboxes, swirling graphics on FOX, Facebook. Whatever. It's there and it's real.

Baseball is a leisurely sport punctuated by moments of rapid-fire action. Football is more ADHD. It meshes better with the times.

Which leads me to one last thing. Yesterday the BBC News released an article anticipating the upcoming 200th anniversary of the birth of author Charles Dickens. It quoted Dickens biographer Claire Tomalin as saying:

"Children are not being educated to have prolonged attention spans and you have to be prepared to read steadily for a Dickens novel and I think that's a pity."

So do I, Claire. So do I.

Dickens' stories are by and large still relevant. Plus, they are so much fun. But you have to work at them. And therein lies the rub.

I do know that my life wouldn't be near as rewarding without having experienced Sydney Carton's sacrifice in "A Tale of Two Cities" or Scrooge's night to remember in "A Christmas Carol." And that's what you do when you read a good book. You experience it. As Hemingway said, it's truer than if it really happened. And, plus, reading isn't passive. Which is good for the mind.

I've been looking for an excuse to read about the best of times and worst of times again. The BBC article gave me a perfect one. When I finish this Hemingway biography, Dickens here I come!

So, yeah, it was a great Super Bowl and all, but...

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Blogger Chuck said...

Jake, I'd like to add another to the list outstanding episodic programming - Barney Miller with Hal Linden, Abe Vigoda, Ron Glass, Jack Soo, and Max Gail.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Jake Mabe said...

Always liked "Barney Miller," Chuck. Haven't seen it in years. May see if Netflix has it...

4:23 PM  

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