Monday, 9 March 2009

Supporting the Nielsen surveys

I don't watch a lot of TV. Blame it on too many years without a means of viewing cable (sophomore year of undergrad: ecstatic to find BBC News on the rabbit ears), or too much relocation (junior year: TV is not as much fun when everyone is speaking Italian), or just plain old too-high expectations. Regardless, my TV watching consists of occasional Mythbusters, downloaded episodes of Doctor Who, and once in a while, a nostalgic episode of The X-Files.

So imagine my dismay and ironic amusement at finding a postcard in the mail, informing me that I would be contributing to that great surveying body, the Nielsen Ratings. Apparently, I will receive a substantial package in several days, which will ask me about my TV viewing habits. My initial plan was simply to respond to every question with Pushing Daisies (recently cancelled).

Favorite TV show? Pushing Daisies.
Programmes you regularly tune in to? Pushing Daisies.
Typical viewing time? Pushing Daisies.


(please note, this is mostly out of a righteous sense of vindication for fans of the late television show: I only ever watched a couple episodes. I did, however, enjoy those episodes).

But then it occurred to me that perhaps I should be a little more responsible. After all, I actually give thought to my programming choices; not everyone does. Isn't it about time that someone called out The History Channel's bizarre, conspiracy-riddled programming? Or praised the Sci-Fi channel's continuous rotation of Star Trek reruns? Or begged for the end of evening soap operas? (Brothers and Sisters, Grey's Anatomy, etc. etc. and, alas, etc.) So I took the opportunity to sit down in front of the TV tonight to gain some insight into the current offerings.

And actually put in the effort to switch away from M*A*S*H reruns. I do enjoy M*A*S*H.

My SO and I ended up watching two hours of Top Gear, which I'm not sure qualifies (Nielsen probably has a very good idea of who's watching BBC America, and it's probably people just like me: i.e. not likely to benefit advertising campaigns). But we finished off the evening with some good quality American entertainment- and a pilot episode, nonetheless! So here you have my opinions on Castle, ABC's latest crime/thriller/Law and Order wannabe.

Castle (to give you a quick premise) is about a murder/thriller author (who is not at all like Stephen King, in any way, shape, or form, and clearly his name has nothing to do with Stephen King, either) who finds himself dragged into a murder investigation, headed by a gorgeous and witty but brainy and not made-up detective. He hangs about, looking for inspiration, and helps to break the case. There's lots of unresolved sexual tension, because he's a playboy and she's Brainy, so clearly not interested in him.

Perhaps you can guess where my criticism is going.

I enjoyed the episode; it was entertaining, Nathan Fillion is a riot, and even though I have no idea who Stana Katic is, I quite liked her, as well. However.


This is a crime show. There are two main characters. Notice which one the series is named after. Ok, fair enough: he's the interesting bit, the bit that separates it from Law and Order and all its many copies. But the entire show is just another case of two leads, the interesting/quirky man and the straight-laced woman. Can't we have a quirky woman? Instead, we have the professional detective who obviously has issues because she's in charge of a bunch of men, and doesn't seem to have a social life, and doesn't like flirty men. OMG, she had a TRAGIC PAST, clearly! And she doesn't wear make-up! And she's a control-freak! Clearly, she needs saving.

I'm hoping this isn't actually the case, but things certainly seem to be pointing in that direction. All this evidence that we are not, in fact, in a post-sexist society is balanced out, however, by the wit in the show. The round-table of the crime authors (including the real life Stephen Cannell and James Patterson) was hilarious, as was the reveal at the conclusion of the hold-up-at-gunpoint: The safety was on.

So I'll give it another shot. I don't like to dismiss things outright simply because they are still caught in our male-dominated world. So I'll give the show kudos for a strong female lead who refuses to take shit, usually with a sidelong grin. But I'm certainly not impressed. Regardless, this will give me good fodder for the Nielsen survey: at least I can say I've watched some contemporary programming that didn't involve blowing up cars, dynamite, outhouses or alien planets.*


*In order, those are Top Gear, Mythbusters, M*A*S*H and Doctor Who. Though scant, my TV habits at least cover a broad spectrum of genres.


Dr. No said...

HA! I found your secret tiny comment link!

Vaulting said...

Blast! I have been foiled.