All Geek to Me: The state of network decay

In All Geek to Me, Columns, Columns, Opinion

Last weekend I went to see a movie (Wreck-it-Ralph is pretty good by the way), and in some of the commercials before the film started I witnessed a pretty obnoxious set of advertising for some show called Level Up.

In it, a group of twenty-somethings pretending to be teenage-somethings have to battle monsters that appear out of a video game they all play, complete with horrible CGI and humor that revolves around saying things like “pwnd.”

So it’s a bad show, but so what? Well it’s also featured on Cartoon Network, and the problem is, well, it’s not a cartoon.

Still, you might ask, why should I care if some dumb show intended for kids isn’t very good and doesn’t represent the network it appears on very well? Well, the answer is this particular instance is just an example of a growing trend in television.

The problem is one known as “network decay.”

Network decay has spread through many of the television content providers. The classic joke of MTV no longer playing music has long been tired and overused, but the real problem goes much deeper than that.

Here’s a few I found with just some casual searching.

SyFy (once upon a time known as Sci-Fi) used to air shows with a science fiction theme, but moved into paranormal reality shows (ala Ghost Hunters) and eventually just settled for Law and Order: SVU and professional wrestling.

It also apparently changed it’s name to be cooler, or something. I don’t know.

The Discovery Channel has slipped a bit over the years as well. There was a time where it was dedicated solely to nonfiction documentary material. However, since the execs at Discovery headquarters realized that Mythbusters basically prints money, they’ve been doing what they can to put more explosions in just about every show they have. Who needs other channels to rip off your programming when you can do it yourself?

Not that Mythbusters is a bad show, but I prefered when they took on myths because they were interesting, not because there was some way they could fit an explosion into the programming.

But the worst offender I’ve come across recently is the History Channel. I mean it started out strong, but soon earned the nickname “Hitler Channel” when all the programming that wasn’t about World War II was just about Nazis. If it wasn’t that it was the American Civil War.

But at least all that stuff was actually history.

If that wasn’t bad enough, in recent years they’ve shifted again, and now the show seems to revolve around either pseudo-reality TV focusing on occupations such as Ice Road Truckers and Ax Men, or conspiracy-driven pseudo-documentaries about aliens, Atlantis and ghosts. Thus a new name has arisen: “The Hysterical Channel.”

Oh, and Pawn Stars.

Pawn Stars may at first seem like a fit, because some old items people bring in may have some sort of historical value, but the show—like most all reality shows—is pretty much completely scripted. While the clients and items are real, they’re all pre-selected, staged and directed. The “experts” brought on are waiting off camera and are fed lines, and the whole experience is, essentially, pointless.

It’s fake, it’s not history and I personally find it to be mind-numbing and not very interesting. But then again, it’s not only the History Channel’s biggest show, but also one of the highest rated shows currently on TV.

So what do I know?

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