Monday, October 23, 2006

This Is a Hit?

I was catching up with the Sunday paper late Sunday night -- actually, early Monday morning -- when I read an article in the Daily Progress by Martha Burk, identified as author of Cult of Power: Sex Discrimination in Corporate America and What Can Be Done About It. (Readers might recognize her as the leader of a vocal group of critics of the Augusta National Golf Club for excluding female members.)

I don't know what Ms. Burk knows about corporate America, but she doesn't seem to know much about television. Here's her first paragraph (excerpted from The Newtown Bee -- because the Daily Progress doesn't put its non-staff-written opinion pieces on its web site):

These days you don't have to try very hard to find material for a column on sex discrimination. From Friday Night Lights, the hit TV series that could more properly be called "Friday Night Stereotypes," to former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina's new book on her career, and Warren Buffett's latest ethics advice, we are served up a wealth of opportunity.
What's that? Friday Night Lights is a "hit" television show? Someone please tell Ms. Burk that her research assistants need some research assistance.

Here's Mark Washburn writing in the Charlotte Observer on Saturday:
Gasping for breath in the ratings are "Friday Night Lights" on NBC and "Men in Trees" on ABC. Both deserve better.
That not clear enough? Try TV critic Austin O'Connor in the Lowell Sun:
NBC's Friday Night Lights is a fine television show, but it's not generating much offense on the Nielsen scoreboard. Ratings for this week's episode improved a bit, though it still finished in fourth place in its Tuesday 8 p.m. time slot, behind the inexplicably popular Dancing with the Stars on ABC, NCIS on CBS, and the baseball playoffs on Fox. Maybe NBC should think about moving the show to - oh, I don't know - Friday night, perhaps? Nah, makes too much sense. I hope it survives, because it would be hard to live without both FNL and Two-a-Days, MTV's addictive reality show about the Hoover (Ala.) High School football team that wrapped up its run Wednesday night. If you missed the finale, MTV is re-airing the final two episodes of Two-a-Days Saturday night at 10:30. Set your TiVos!
People in Texas know about "Friday night lights." Here's what the Beaumont Enterprise has to say about what Martha Burk calls a "hit TV series":
"Friday Night Lights," is a one-hour drama that airs at 7 p.m. Tuesdays, chronicling the ups and downs of the fictional Dillon High School Panthers. The TV show, of course, is based on the movie - which, of course, was based on H.G. Bissinger's bestselling book, an account of the 1988 Odessa Permian team.

But the television version is unique from the screen and print versions in at least one other way: Apparently, it's not successful. In fact, it has tanked in the Nielsen ratings.
Writing in that same article, the Enterprise's Perryn Keys adds:
But evidently, "Friday Night Lights" is getting an audience just barely larger than those reserved for Ron Popeil and other infomercials.

I don't wish to belabor the point, but I've never seen Friday Night Lights (neither the TV series nor the movie), and I don't know or care about football (high school or otherwise). Yet, without paying attention, even I was aware that Friday Night Lights has proven to be a ratings disappointment for the Peacock Network.

There's a lesson here. Others may disagree, but I think what we can learn from this is that out-of-touch elites should not try to make pop-culture references about things they don't truly understand. With this article, Martha Burk made herself look as adept with the TV remote as George H.W. Bush was with a supermarket scanner.

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