I watched the Kentucky Derby last week. Don't worry, this isn't a post about horse racing. You can keep reading. It's a post about how the coverage made me want to rip hats off heads and shove them down throats.
When I started watching racing, all we had on TV were the Triple Crown races. You turned on a network, and they showed you the horses, had analysts talk about them, then they went into the gate and ran. It was an adorable time, where TeeVee graphics were fuzzy colored squares, they didn't know from fonts, and any post-race analysis included only the race footage you just watched. There were no other angles. There wasn't a blimp. And there wasn't a computer graphic that made the race look like a video game.
This has happened in other sports, too, as you all well know. But only horse racing seems to have no idea what to do with it.
There were not, however, dim, fancy women whose only job is to speak into a microphone. And when I say "only job," if you can find me something else that Maria Menounous is supposed to do, by all means tell me. I don't know who this bint is, or where she's from, but I suspect she comes at me from some type of entertainment TeeVee show. It's one thing to have one of these dim birds pop out of her tree for a minute or two while she gives local color or shows us a fancy hat but I AM NOT KIDDING YOU, she was onscreen the majority of the time. Whenever the camera went back to, I don't know, A HORSE or Gary Stevens it was actually jarring. Your brain goes, "Oh, right, there's a sport happening here." As one of these idiots said, "The other part of the event is the horses." Oh really? The OTHER part? You know what was for you? The Royal Wedding. Now fuck off.
I need to have a conversation with whoever "produced" this coverage. Aside from the offense of it all, there's a practical side: Who is your audience? To whom are you trying to appeal? Either it's a show on fashionable hats hosted by the Real Housewives, or it's a fucking sports event. You tried to have it both ways and you completely failed. So thanks, producer of NBC Sports, for setting horse racing -- and women -- back. Can't wait to see how you handle the Preakness, especially since there are no hats.
But the horrendous Derby coverage wasn't the only iffy gender thing this week. Networks announced their fall/midseason pickups. I haven't read everything so I'm not enraged/delighted that certain shows didn't get picked up, but of the pilots I read that DID get picked up, they were among the best written. So that's actually a positive for the fall season.
Mostly, people online are going, "Where's 17th Precinct? What happened to Locke & Key? Wasn't Wonder Woman a lock? JJ Abrams only got TWO shows picked up? WTF?" But over at Deadline, they had a curious take on the fall lineup.
Intrepid reporter Nellie Andreeva broke down the pilot pickups by gender testing. In other words, which shows tested best with which sex. Because as we all no doubt are aware, women won't watch boy shows and boys won't watch female shows. No men watch Glee, for example. Singing! GAH! And no women will watch cop shows. Like Southland, I guess. Because of guns and language and scary scary stuff.
While everyone is attempting to analyze what the fall schedules mean (maybe even get a hint towards what development will be when it opens up in a month or so), it's this kind of stereotyping that leads directly to failures. This is why testing is so wrong-headed. The notion that 17th Precinct would be primarily male-oriented is just the dumbest thing I've heard since America's Next Top Model bleated about fascinators on the Derby telecast. Once again, everybody proves how little they understand the mind of the genre lover. Rather than designing shows aimed towards one age group or one gender, isn't it a better idea to just be SMART about what works for you? CBS has figured this out, and as a result they have an entire week of cross-promotion they can do. Networks look at what works, and then they try to expand that niche and the only way to do THAT is to put shows on that can be launched smartly behind or ahead of hits, and for God's sake, use cross-promotion. If you have one cop show night and four soap/reality nights, your cop shows are gonna take a hit because it's tough to promote during shows that are so different.
That doesn't mean that men are watching one and women the other. It just doesn't, no matter how much people want to put Americans into their little box (aside to politicians: The next asshat who says "working families" gets spam in their inbox). But people are just so grimly determined to continue this nonsense because testing takes individuals and turns them into percentages and ratios, and then businessfolk who wouldn't know a creative endeavor if it threw paint on their Maseratis use these numbers to crank out the kind of TeeVee you DO want to watch, because THAT'S WHAT THE NUMBERS SAY.
I would rather see reporters/online personality analysts talking about the programming as it relates to each network than once again boxing up women and soaps and men and cop shows. Programming is that puzzle that nobody seems to want to discuss, and since I find it rather fascinating, I have NO idea why. But based on the network pickups, they've all done enough to make it easier on themselves when they finalize the schedules. So that'll be interesting to take a look at when the schedules are announced next week.
There was another rather wrong-headed article the other day, this one in the LA Times. The headline is DOOM!!!!! "A dramatic decline for network dramas." OH NOES! Oh wait. It's about how few of last year's new shows are coming back this year and of course, once again, serialization is blamed. Because it's NO FUN when you can't arbitrarily single out that one crucial element for blame/praise. This is why Matthew McConaughey was supposed to be the next big thing. Or Julia Ormond. Remember? Rather than acknowledging that the sum of a film or TV show's parts is responsible for its success, or realize that the film/show came out at the exact right time and addressed a particular mood or direction the country was going in, they have to go, "It's clearly Bradley Cooper."
Okay, yes, it IS Bradley Cooper, but that's beside the point.
Here's one thing you can't do with a serialized drama -- run it for a few weeks, take it off for a few months, bring it back, preempt it, then hem and haw about its fate. As far as the rules of TeeVee go, that's a pretty fundamental one. This is one big reason why serialized dramas work better on cable than they do on network. They run straight through for 13 episodes, then they come out on DVD. Viewers know that they are going to get AT LEAST a full season, so they will sign on. But how many people go, "I won't bother watching that. They'll just cancel it." But there's also a difference between a drama so serialized that the only thing that's close-ended is the season finale, and a show that's a good balance of both serialization and close-ended episodes. A BIG difference. And the problem becomes that the networks swing too hard the other way, and say "We literally do not want anything that bleeds over from this episode to the next, except for the characters." But see, THAT bores people, just as shows that are too serialized don't get new viewers. There is a balance, and shows have been very successful doing this in the past. It's not impossible and believe me, all TeeVee writers who've pitched pilots go in with that balance.
But fuck it, because women watch Glee and men watch Southland.
Give me a break.