October 2012

"Ratings Guy"

Family Guy did it better. (Wait...)

I'm pretty sure every sitcom has done a "We're a Nielsen Family" episode at one point or another. I can think of three off the top of my head. Back in the day, all television shows were beholden to the Nielsen Ratings. You can totally understand why a show would want to play with that power dynamic, turn it on its head. The hunter becomes the hunted. Etc.

These days, the Nielsen Rating is still somewhat powerful, but it doesn't hold nearly as much sway as it used to. The advent of digital cable means that television shows can get actual numbers of viewers. Not to mention the ability of networked devices like Tivo to give shows specific feedback about who is watching the show, and when, and how.
The idea of gaming the Nielsen ratings is, in other words, a relic of the past. Even if it were possible to somehow artificially change the Nielsen ratings for a show, it would be pretty obvious what had happened. If the Nielsen rating for a show shoots up or down, while other metrics (including the audience share) remain steady, it will be immediately apparent to the network executives that there is a glitch in the system.

"Into Fat Air"


This premiere directly followed the deflated Simpsons premiere, and what a dismaying experience that was for the viewer. I'm not asking for realism from a show that frequently features lengthy, nonsensical fight sequences with a giant humanoid chicken. But I do ask for some kind of reality check when the Griffin family decides to climb Mount Everest just to try and top a family of show-offs.

That is not the kind of thing that ever happens. Ever. I don't know about your family, but my family has never done anything just to win a petty competition with some snooty family. Certainly not climb Mount Everest without a lick of training or forethought.
In fact, this plot is so nonsensical that it could literally have been used by any other show. It would work just as well as an episode of Cheers or Roseanne or Modern Family as it would Family Guy. Which is to say: not at all. Ever.