It’s a really good thing that The People’s Choice Awards exists, for any number of reasons (not the least of which being my own obsession with entertainment and subsequent livelihood). But when you get right down to it, “the People’s Choice” is a tremendous – if simple – concept. One that’s quite literally being put to the test right now.
See, there’s something going on this week in New York City that will most likely have a dramatic effect upon your life after dinner. A group of nicely dressed, handsomely paid, largely humorless, vaguely nervous people have gathered in Manhattan to make decisions about what it is they think YOU want. What YOU’LL choose. Here’s how it works:
Imagine if you will a really, really terrible television show. Okay? Consider just the worst show you could possibly even imagine. Something someone you don’t even like wouldn’t watch. And yet, there’s this one guy you knew of who liked that show. And he lived in, say Michigan somewhere, and he owned an automobile manufacturing company. And every time that car guy watched the show he said: “That show is great. I don’t mind that four people watch it every week. It’s cool. I’m going to shell out several million dollars a year to keep it running. Know why? Because I like it. So it stays.” If that happened, that stinker show would be broadcast into your living room each and every week. Forever. End of story.
But of course, that’s not what happens.
Because television is a business. Which explains why shows – interesting shows, funny shows, bizarre shows whose only flaw might just have been not enough exposure — get axed. In the olden days they used to let shows go for a while. A brand new program was allowed to air for a season or two so it could hit its stride, find its sea legs. Get comfy. So people could say things like, “Oh yeah. I’ve heard good things about that Seinfeld show. Maybe I’ll tune in.” Fifteen years ago maybe there was something on TV that was mehh but it was sometimes funny. In that case, the network might say okay, let’s tinker with it. Maybe we can even make it funnier. Until lo and behold the following season everyone catches on, and the thing becomes a hit. But that takes mad cash and the only people with that kinda lucre use it to hire professional athletes and to not run for president.
Nowadays, there’s just that nervous guy in the suit looking at the numbers, saying: “Who watched? How many people watched it???” and if the answer isn’t promising, he says “Ahh. Forget it. Not enough people watched. It’s costing a bundle. My pal – who owns the car company – isn’t pleased. Lose the show. Did you hear me? Lose it.”
Grossly oversimplified, but you get the idea. So the “Network Upfronts” are going on right now in New York City. What that means is the networks and the advertisers get together and decide what to keep – and what to eliminate. Based on what they know about YOUR preferences. They keep the shows that have value, (like Idol, or DWTS, say) but the ones that have gotten old, or feeble, or sickly – well, you know what happens. And there are all manner of excited people saying “Hey, lookit my new show! It’s hilarious! Watch this one!” and everyone watches and they say: “Okay. We’re going to write some big checks, so these little babies better be good.”
To be fair, there are some great-looking new shows getting announced this week. From what I’ve seen I like Awake, Up All Night, Bent, Family Album, and The New Girl. And we have months to discuss, because nothing happens until everyone heads Back To School. Among the departures? America’s Most Wanted. Brothers & Sisters. Smallville. The Cape. The Event. Off The Map. V. And the list goes on and on. Fortunately, beloved actors and actresses are nothing if not resilient, and they keep popping up over and over. The really good news? There’s no way around the fact that they need us to like what they’re showing. Hence good things like the PCA. Fortunately, we’re still the “people” who can “choose” the stuff we like. Um, once the suits tell us what our choices will be.
1) Dave Annable
2) Sally Field
3) Calista Flockhart
4) Rachel Griffiths