(Television History and Trivia)




Victor Edward Swanson,


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- - - T.H.A.T., Edition No. 14 - - -

    A letter or other piece of written material has a "tone," and, as a whole, a television station or a television network has a "tone."  I think of "tone" as the feeling a television station or a television network has or gives me.  I could argue well executives of television stations and executives of broadcast television networks have not paid much attention to the "tone" of their entities in recent years, paying too much attention to trying to create "hits," which might work in the short run and have a cheap tone or an unlikeable tone, and paying too little attention to how the "tone" of their entities are being affected in the long run (for the future).  I have no stake in any television station or broadcast television network so it does not matter to me that, since the early 1980s at least and especially since the late 1990s, executives at television stations and executives at broadcast television networks have been setting up "tones" for their products that are not good for the long run.  I will not give a detailed report about why I think the "tone" of television stations and broadcast television networks is getting worse, since I would be giving advice and would be receiving no pay for giving that advice, but I will say that the networks' practice of running a particular episode of a prime-time series more than twice in a season hurts the "tone" of broadcast television networks and, in turn, television stations, and television stations' practice of running around ten episodes of a syndicated off-network television series each week (such as two episodes a day on five days of a week) hurts the long-run tone of television stations.

    Oh!  Hey!  Pay attention!
    I have noticed two scheduling practices or programing practices being done by broadcast television networks this season (the 2004-2005 season) that are probably irritating viewers, which is not good to do.  This season, I have seen an increase in the practice of pre-empting shows, or I have seen certain shows scheduled to air at certain times as noted in "television listings" (such as listings in TV Guide) and have found other shows get aired instead.  I will not show through this edition of T.H.A.T. any examples of scheduling changes that have taken place this season, and I will only say that NBC-TV and Fox TV seem to be leading the way.  (By the way, for an elderly woman and neighbor, I pick up a free television-listings publication that is distributed in the western Detroit area at some stores each week so that she can see the listings and fill out the crossword puzzle each week, and, the other day, she noted to me how shows listed in the publication as scheduled to be aired at certain times do not get aired and that other shows get aired.)  This season, broadcast television networks seem to be adopting as a regular business practice the idea of giving shows "off-time starts," and I define "off-time starts" as starts that do not begin at what have become normal start times, such as the top of the hour and the bottom of the hour.  ABC-TV and NBC-TV are leading the way in using "off-time starts," and the practice of using "off-time starts" has really taken off since March (2005).  For instance, NBC-TV has used the off-time-start practice regularly on Thursday evenings, such as for The Apprentice and ER, and what NBC-TV has been doing is run The Apprentice from 9:00 p.m. (ET) to 9:59 p.m. (ET) and run ER from 9:59 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., and, for example, ABC-TV has used the off-time-start practice on Wednesday evenings and Sunday evenings, such as with Desperate Housewives (from 9:00 p.m. (ET) to 10:02 p.m. (ET)) and Grey's Anatomy (from 10:02 p.m. (ET) to 11:00 p.m. (ET) on Sundays.  (A friend of mind noted that she is having a hard time recording programs with a VCR  if she wants to tape programs of two different networks on the same evening, because she either misses the start of a program on one network so that she can get the end of a program (an earlier program) on another network or misses the end of a program (an earlier program) on one network so that she can get the start of a program on another network).
    I hope you understand how these two scheduling practices affect the long-run tone of broadcast television networks and television stations.

    Now I have a complaint.  I am lucky enough to be able to see CBC-TV (a broadcast television network based in Canada), being able to because a CBC-TV affiliate exists in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, which is across the Detroit River from the Detroit area, where I am (the Detroit area is in Michigan of the United States of America).  On April 5, 2005, CBC-TV began to run the latest version of Doctor Who, a weekly one-hour-long series featuring such performers as Christopher Eccleston as The Doctor and Billie Piper as Rose Tyler, and this version of Doctor Who is a production of "BBC Wales in association with CBC."   The history of Doctor Who as a television franchise goes back to 1963, when a series (called Doctor Who) began to be shown in England, and during the run of the series in England, which was from 1963 to 1989, several actors played The Doctor, and when another actor took over the role of The Doctor, the producers did a "transition bit" in which the viewer saw The Doctor change in appearance (or "morf" as might be said by many people today) from the current actor's face and style to the new actor's face and style.  On May 14, 1996, Fox TV aired a TV-movie entitled Doctor Who, and, at the start of that movie, the producers did use the "transition bit," and the viewer saw The Doctor as played by Sylvester McCoy (who had been the last actor to play The Doctor in the television series) change into The Doctor as played by Paul McGann.  The new Doctor Who series, which is being shown on BBC 1 (in England) and on CBC-TV (in Canada), did not do the "transition bit" in the first episode, and that is my complaint--The producers' not using the "transition bit" sort of broke a tradition.  However, I can say that the producers' not using the "transition bit" in the new Doctor Who series does not affect the overall "tone" of the series, and I can say that the work of all the guys and gals involved in the production of the new Doctor Who series has resulted in a good "tone" or I can say that the new Doctor Who series has a good "tone," matching that of the original Doctor Who series.  Even good shows can fail in the ratings, for whatever reasons, so I will say that the new Doctor Who series might fail in the ratings, for whatever reasons, but the new Doctor Who is not a bad series.  Incidentally, I happen to have a DVD copy of an episode of the original Doctor Who series entitled "The Five Doctors."  Who played The Doctor in "The Five Doctors" of the original Doctor Who series?  You must come up with the answer before you see the next edition of T.H.A.T.

    In past editions of T.H.A.T., I have reported information about made-for-TV movies that have the same titles, and one reason that I have reported such information is executives at the networks and at production companies have been getting lax in naming made-for-TV movies or have been getting lazy--not taking the time to come up with new names for movies.  Recently, someone reminded me that "locusts" show up around the country every 17 years.  Well, that is not always true.  On October 9, 1974, ABC-TV aired a movie entitled Locusts, and the movie featured such performers as Ron Howard, Ben Johnson, Lisa True Gerritsen, and Rance Howard.  On April 24, 2005, Lucy Lawless, Mike Farrell, John Heard, Gregalan Williams, Natalija Nogulich, and Esperanza Catubig were some of the performers featured in a made-for-TV movie entitled Locusts, which was shown on CBS-TV.  The two movies that used the titled Locusts did not have the same plots.  (Since the movies were shown about 21 years apart and not 17 years apart, I guess the agents for the locusts that played in the second movie or both movies had a hard time setting up contacts with the producers.)  Let me talk about Elvis Presley now.  On February 11, 1979, ABC-TV showed a movie entitled Elvis!, which had such performers as Kurt Russell, Bing Russell, Season Hubley, Shelley Winters, Pat Hingle, Robert Gray, and Randy Gray.  On May 8, 2005, CBS-TV aired the first part of a two-part movie (or the first part of a "mini-series") called Elvis, and it was a two-part TV-movie that featured such performers as Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Camryn Manheim, Antonia Bernath, Rose McGowan, Robert Patrick, and Randy Quaid.  Okay!  I guess Elvis! and Elvis do not have exactly the same title, so the individuals who named Elvis did not copy the title of Elvis!  (Did you notice the family connections in the movies?  Ron Howard is Rance Howard's son, as you should already know, if you have seen T.H.A.T. #11, and Kurt Russell is Bing Russell's son.)

    Other made-for-TV movies that focused on Elvis Presley, who was a recording artist and had his best years in the 1950s and 1960s, have been aired since the 1970s.   For instance, Elvis and the Beauty Queen was shown on NBC-TV on March 1, 1981, and Elvis and the Colonel: The Untold Story was shown on NBC-TV on January 10, 1993.  Who played Elvis Presley in Elvis and the Beauty Queen?  In that movie, Stephanie Zimbalist played the beauty queen, Linda Thompson.  Who played Elvis Presley in Elvis and the Colonel: The Untold Story?  Beau Bridges played the Colonel (or Tom Parker) in Elvis and the Colonel: The Untold Story.

    That gives you two more questions to answer.

    I now have to give answers to questions that were posed in the previous edition of T.H.A.T.  One question that was posed to you in T.H.A.T. #13 that you had to answer was: What character did Desireee Goyette do the voice for in a 1985 special that featured a character called Johnny Throat?  The answer is Betty Boop.  I also asked you: What was the name of the special?  The answer is The Romance of Betty Boop.  In T.H.A.T. #13, I presented a paragraph with the names of a bunch of persons, and I asked: What did the persons have in common?  If you read credits of television shows regularly, you should have come up with an answer, though not a really focused answer.  All the persons listed are "casting directors."  If you knew that, you got the answer correct.  However, I will say that the list is really a list of most of the persons who did the main casting duties for "fictional scripted television shows" shown in prime time on broadcast networks this season (the 2004-2005 season), and "fictional scripted television shows" covers such types of programs as sitcoms, medical dramas, and other dramas, and that means "fictional scripted television shows" does not include "reality" shows.

    For this edition of T.H.A.T., I conducted a little survey about "fictional scripted television shows" to see how much time had been devoted to "fictional scripted television shows" shown in prime time during one week on the same three broadcast television networks during several past seasons, at the start of this season, and during one recent week, and the survey involved ABC-TV, CBS-TV, and NBC-TV, and the shows had to be either half-hour-long shows or one-hour-long shows, and the total time for each week was 66 hours, and, by the way, no time for movies, such as made-for-TV movies, was taken into consideration.  At the start of the 1975-1976 season, the three networks filled 44 hours (about) with fictional scripted television shows.  At the start of the 1989-1990 season, the three networks had 47 hours (about).  At the start of the 2004-2005 season, the three networks had 38 hours (about), and at least one hour of the total number of hours was filled with extra-run material (another episode of a series that had already had an episode shown during the week).  For the week of April 11-17, 2005, the three networks had 39 hours (about) filled with "fictional scripted television shows," though a number of hours were filled with repeat material, and five hours and a half of the 39 hours were filled with extra-run material (that is, for example, another episode of a series that had already had an episode shown during the week), and, by the way, two hours that normally would have been filled with new or repeated "fictional scripted television shows" were filled with a special (a beauty pageant).  My little survey is a very rough survey, but it does show a drop in the amount of time that goes to "fictional scripted television shows" on the three networks.

Stay well!


copyright c. 2005
Date published: May 10, 2005

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