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Sweeps month is long on flash and short on substance
February 21, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
I'm a somewhat infrequent television viewer these days but February is usually a good month to watch because it's "sweeps month," the month when TV networks pull out all the stops. Their ratings during this month help determine advertising rates for the coming season.
So, last week on FOX's "Bones," Brennan was shot with an ice bullet and went to heaven to talk with her dead mother. On last Sunday's episode of "Once Upon a Time" on ABC, Rumpelstiltskin finally tracked down his long-lost son, who conveniently also happens to be the long-lost lover of heroine Emma and father of her 11-year-old son. Rumpelstiltskin also recalled the long-ago prediction by a seer that the young boy who reunited him with his son (Henry, his grandson) would also be his undoing. For a show about Disney fairytale characters, "Once Upon a Time" is veering off into Greek tragedy territory.
Last night on CBS's "CSI," Sara was framed for murder by an evil former villain of the week who has a grudge against her. It also came out that she is now divorced from Gil Grissom and her crazy mother (the one who stabbed her father to death) is now living in a care facility in Las Vegas. "CSI" could give "Once Upon a Time" lessons in Greek tragedy.
And then we come to ABC's "Castle," the only show I've bothered to watch every episode of this season, even when it meant watching it the next day on Hulu.com. On Monday's episode, Alexis, the teenage daughter of main character Rick Castle (Nathan Fillion), is kidnapped along with her college friend, the daughter of a wealthy Egyptian power broker, and spirited off to Paris. A la the movie "Taken" it looks like Castle will head to Paris in next week's episode to rescue his little girl and may also end up meeting his heretofore unknown father, who is probably some sort of CIA super spy. Is it just me or do all of these plot twists sound just a little ... desperate?
TV viewers have so many other entertainment options these days that I suppose networks think they have to haul out the old razzle-dazzle to make people tune in. A show that gets 10 million viewers is considered a hit, even though it's a mere slice of the audience that a hit show could expect to attract a few decades ago. But even so, they might be pleasantly surprised by their ratings if they focused more on character development, plot and original concepts instead.
The coming season doesn't look like much of an improvement., judging by the buzz about some of the pilots that the four major networks are looking at for the fall TV season. CBS is looking at yet another NCIS spinoff, as well as spin-offs of the movies "Beverly Hills Cop" and "Bad Teacher." Other networks are looking at the usual mix of family and workplace comedies and cop and lawyer shows, with a vampire show or two thrown in for fun. They sound like the plot of every show you've seen in the past decade.
Is a little substance too much to ask for?
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