In my youth, when television had only three networks producing shows—CBS, NBC, and ABC—the season got started in early September and ran until the end of April, nine months with most shows having a 28 episode season. And with only three networks, it wasn’t hard to find eight or ten must-see shows a week. The only reality show that was popular enough to last for half a century was 60 Minutes, and that was a news show, not what we think of today as a reality show. And I guess all the game shows would be called reality shows as well as the late-night talk shows.
Just look at us now, almost a hundred networks, half of which with too many reality shows. I still can’t figure out why so many people are so fascinated with shows like The Bachelor, The Biggest Loser, Big Brother, The Real Housewives of one place or another, one kind of Apprentice or another (Who really wants to watch Gary Bussey rant and rave? Who really wants to see the Trumpster’s pursed lips and ridiculous pompadour?), one kind of angry chef or another, one Kardashian or another. And there are now so many good series every week that we don’t have enough time to watch them all. I DVR-ed all ten shows of American Horror Story, watched the pilot yesterday, and decided that despite the rave reviews, it was just too strange and x-rated for my taste. I DVR-ed all the episodes of AMC’s Hell on Wheels, watched five of them yesterday, and decided that despite it grittiness, dirtiness, muddiness, and bloodiness, it was a realistic look at that time in our history when The Union Pacific was grinding along laying tracks that would eventually meet the tracks laid by the Central Pacific to form the first transcontinental railway. The Western as a film genre isn’t always very realistic, but this one seems to be, much as was Deadwood of a few years ago. I can’t wait to see the rest of this first season, and look forward to season two. Then there was all the hype about Alcatraz. We watched thirty minutes of the pilot and decided it just wasn’t going to make it. Too much silliness involving time travel and the mysterious disappearance of prisoners on the island before it was closed forever. Even the background music had too many echoes of Lost. Thirty minutes was enough. We have enough favorites each week that we don’t need to get involved in everything that comes down the pike—Blue Bloods, The Mentalist, Harry’s Law, The Good Wife, Glee, Person of Interest, Grimm, Southland, The Closer, Rizzoli and Isles. Have I missed any? Oh, yes, The Big Bang Theory. I know I’m passing over a bunch of shows that others like, but I just don’t have enough hours in the evenings to watch everything. I notice that Kiefer Sutherland is starring in one that looks interesting—Touch, about a single parent raising a mute son with amazing gifts of prescience. I hope it’s as good as it sounds.