May sweeps is a time when advertisers look at ratings to decide where to advertise, and networks get to use those ratings to set advertising prices. In order to bolster their ratings, networks usually perform some kind of stunt (i.e. CSI and Two-and-a-half Men’s writers, neither of which I watch, switched places). This year, most people are happy just to have scripted shows back.
Side note: I followed the strike like the crazy TV junkie that I am. United Hollywood was my daily first stop. I was reading articles from both sides; but the studio honchos came off smug and money-hungry, while the writers came off as working people who were only asking for a fraction of what the studios already received. I had an ulterior motive, though—someday I want to be a screenwriter. In fact it is on my list of things to do in my next decade which will actually show up on my blog sometime around my birthday. I am giving myself six months to decide what I want to do with my next ten years.
As a self-proclaimed (diagnosed?) TV addict, it has surprised me that I have not been as excited by TV this spring. Sure, scripted shows are back, and I love The Office, Ugly Betty, Supernatural, Bones, Aliens in America (so sad it is going to be canceled), and the “fantastic” Doctor Who (Sorry, I am still working on catching up with Battlestar). I am looking forward to the return of Burn Notice, My Boys, Psych, and So You Think You Can Dance, but my heart longs for September when we finally get another Heroes, Chuck, and especially Pushing Daisies. Maybe the writers are having a slump. There are some good moments, but a lot of it is very “meh.”
Good TV is like the best books, it makes you delve into another world full of truth, pain, change, and good friends (I know, you think this is sounding a little familiar—I am addicted to good writing, sue me. That post is coming soon.). Literature has always been incredibly important to me—it can help shape the way we experience the world, experience it with us, or remind us that others have gone through it, too. TV has become like good literature. There are themes, mythologies, social commentary, and truth being packaged in with gorgeously sculpted characters—even wise-cracking, spunky, blond PIs—that I haven’t fully felt from many books in a while. Many of the books that have come out recently do not excite me like some of the TV I have been watching (which, just a few years ago, I personally would have taken as heresy). This is not to say that they are all succulently written, but like books, there is a spectrum, and a good portion of them are lovely.
The face of television is going to change in the next few years, and that may excite me more than anything else. Pilot season was ruined this year, and no one knows what will happen going forward—even the Upfronts are changing—but I think many sly, social commentators and brilliant, literary geniuses will, hopefully, create art in the realm of television. If we can keep the rising tide of reality drivel out of it (there is some place for a little reality—I adore Project Runway) and stop the cancellation of some very promising shows; we will discover some amazing pieces when all is said and done. We are experiencing something like the birth of the novel—a golden age of writing come to life. Enjoy May sweeps 2008, you may find inspiration where you least expect it.