Cultural News Bytes – February 23rd

It’s been nearly a month since I’ve done one of these, but there are some smallish things that I want to cover before we head into the weekend.

Television – Thursday’s Ratings Battle

It was quite the night for television, as my rather epic edition of Thursday Night TV Club shows. As a result, let’s take a look at who was positively or negatively affected.

On the positive side, American Idol‘s one-hour results episode scored well, winning the 8pm (EST) hour quite easily. However, it wasn’t the highest rated episode of the night, as Grey’s Anatomy‘s cliffhanger regarding Meredith’s death scored big for ABC. I have to wonder whether or not people are tuning into results shows these days, knowing just how frustrating and dragged out they can be. Fox should really considering cutting them all down to a 1/2 hour, or else people might finally turn their back on the franchise. ABC also had themselves a winner at the 10pm hour, as Oprah Winfrey’s Oscar special held onto a decent chunk of its lead-in to win the lost.

While CSI and Shark performed well for CBS, Survivor did not fare quite so well. I think it’s really quite interesting that people seemed to turn away from it to Idol much more than from Earl/The Office (who performed only slightly lower than last week’s numbers). It’s not really surprising, the fanbase for Survivor is less rabid than that of the youth-oriented comedies, but it definitely does not bode well for Survivor’s future. The Apprentice has already lost every bit of success it once had, CBS has to be careful not to mess with its scheduling and ruin it all.

NBC may have had decent holds for Earl/Office, and similarly decent holds for Scrubs and 30 Rock, but E.R. took a fairly sizable hit at the 10pm hour against the steamroller that is Oprah Winfrey. ER has been holding out strongly in the timeslot, but it seems as if Shark is more capable of holding onto its CSI audience than ER is building one, especially when Oprah is involved. With another easy channel surf option, people don’t tend to turn to NBC at 10pm.

And, while it may have had its largest audience in a very long time, The O.C. died a quiet death in the ratings pool, dropping almost two thirds of its American Idol lead-in. The show never had a chance against CSI, let alone against both CSI and Grey’s Anatomy. The around seven million people who tuned were likely pleased by what they saw, but the fact remained that the show was never able to regain its cult status after its first season. Let’s just hope they don’t pull a 7th Heaven and decide to resurrect the show, which has proven to be a terrible experiment in futility.

The Ethics of Commercials featuring Robot Suicide

So, right after the Super Bowl I wrote about the GM commercial featuring a robot being fired and then, eventually, jumping off a bridge where he wakes up from his bad dream. I, personally, loved how strange and uncanny the commercial was; suicide prevention groups, however, felt differently. Since I had not been paying too much attention to this particular development, I had missed this important memo from February 11th, when it was announced that they would be editing the commercial. As a result, imagine my surprise when I saw the familiar commercial begin but then end without the bridge conclusion.

Now, while I see the point of the groups protesting the ad’s content, I don’t think that solution GM came up with really does then any good. As some have pointed out, the commercial isn’t really all that entertaining outside of the whole suicide stuff. A robot doing odd jobs isn’t that funny, robots getting fired is more depressing than it is hilarious…really, the only thing making the commercial even remotely stand out was the ending, which was just so bizarre that one couldn’t help but notice it.

By editing out the ending, the commercial is a bore. The message still doesn’t really get through, it doesn’t actually address the quality control issue, and doing odd jobs isn’t enough of a bad dream for the ending to have any resonance. I know they spent millions airing it during the Super Bowl, and a fair amount filming and conceiving it, but the fact of the matter is that without the suicide it isn’t worth the trouble. The commercial doesn’t do anything in its new state other than remind us of the old one; the band-aid solution only makes it boring, and that does not a good commercial make.

Cinema – Box Office Predictions

That’s right, time for some fearless box office predictions. Woot.

1. Ghost Rider – $23,500,000

2. The Number 23 – $23,232,323

3. Bridge to Teribithia – $15,500,000

4. Reno 911!: Miami– $12,000,000

5. Music and Lyrics – $10,500,000

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Filed under Box Office, Ratings, Television

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