So on Saturday night, I watched the second half of the new Doctor Who series (the 27th series; that doesn’t include Paul McGann’s 2-hour stint in the Fox movie, and yes I’m a big nerd).Â And I started to realize that I’m not impressed these days with most TV that I watch; Doctor Who was a surprising breath of fresh air in comparison to the pap that is aired on most American TV stations.Â It’s a shame I have to resort to downloading all of the “good stuff” from the Internet.
But let’s look at the list, shall we?Â This is a sampling of the shows that I’ve watched in the last year or so, not all of them “new”, that have stuck in my mind as particularly good.
- Doctor Who, series 27
- Spooks, series 1-3
- Hex, series 1
- Firefly (all 13 episodes)
- Alias (although see my previous rant about their stupid broadcast times)
- Lost (well, at least the first 3 are good)
And that’s about it, unless you count the cooking shows I watch (Good Eats has consistently been good since it started, The Naked Chef and Oliver’s Twist were both excellent, and I really like Molto Mario).Â But if you look at the list, it’s mostly short-run shows, and most of those are from the UK (Doctor Who, Spooks, and both Jamie Oliver cooking shows on BBC, Hex on SkyOne).
What is it that makes “American” TV so bad in my eyes?Â I think in part it’s an over-concentration on so-called “Reality TV”.Â But that can’t be the entire reason; there are 24-hour Big Brother channels in the EU, which is way more than we have here in the US.Â So I think the major reason just may be that most American TV has to last an entire US viewing season.Â And a lot of shows just seem to run out of ideas halfway through that viewing season, somewhere around 15 episodes, which is much less than the 20-22 episodes that most series run per season.Â And here’s the deal: I’d be perfectly happy if TV producers limited their series’ productions to 10-15 episodes per season/series (or even less!) if they were higher quality.Â Just take the budget allocated for all 22 episodes and reallocate it for 15 episodes instead.Â Make fewer, higher-quality shows, instead of stretching three months’ worth of ideas into 6.Â If nothing else, it would encourage me to go outside and exercise instead of sitting on my ass doing nothing (the latter, of course, almost certainly being what the Networks want; more eyes for their precious advertising).
Hell, I could shave nearly 6 hours off of each season, per show, just by watching the DVDs (or downloading the episodes, sans commercials, from the Internet).Â Allow me to quote the all-knowing Wikipedia:
Commercials take airtime away from programs. In the 1960s a typical hour-long American show would run for 51 minutes excluding commercials. Today a similar program would only be 42 minutes long. In other words, over the course of 10 hours American viewers will see approximately an hour and a half more commercials than they did in the sixties. Furthermore, if that sixties show is rerun today it is almost certain to be cut by 9 minutes to make room for the extra commercials.
I’ve certainly enjoyed watching Millennium, The Pretender, Babylon 5 and Farscape on DVD (or an equivalent media/format); it’s much better than sitting through 12-18 minutes of ads per hour.