Post-Gazette TV writer Rob Owen answers reader questions online every Friday in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Here’s a selection of recent queries.
Q: Haven't heard anything about “White Collar” being renewed. Will it be back?
- Ron, 61, Bethel Park
Rob: In March we reported that “White Collar” has been renewed for what’s likely to be a final, six-episode season. No air date has been announced, but my guess is fall or early 2015.
Q: There were SOOO many great shows back in the ‘50s up to the late ‘80s. Why is it that TV Land or Nick only shows the SAME things over and over again until we're sick of them? My mom started watching The Raymond Channel half a year ago and is already sick and tired of seeing the same episodes played over and over and 24/7!! Why don't those channels EVER expand their horizons? They should show, "Soap," "Benson," "It's About Time," "Benny Hill," "Chuck," "Bosom Buddies," "Hot L Baltimore," "The Man From Uncle," "Mission: Impossible," "Honey West," "Secret Agent," "The Avengers," "T. H. E. Cat," and lots of others that you never get to see anymore.
- Dale, 56, Pittsburgh
Rob: Because those shows do not draw the younger viewers advertisers (and therefore networks) crave.
Q: I thought Jay Leno presented Arsenio Hall with a letter saying his show was picked up. Now they announce it is not? What's the deal?
- Sharon via email
Rob: The ratings declined and the renewal was rescinded and replaced with a cancellation notice.
Q: Now that Chelsea Handler's show has announced an end date on E!, do you think another cable network will pick her up or will she fade away? I love her show by the way and hope it is picked up
- Linda, 50, Cecil
Rob: She’s already lined up a new talk show on streaming service Netflix that’s set to debut in 2016.
Q: Some shows, like “Mad Men,” come in every week at 64 minutes instead of an hour. Why is this? Do they sell more advertising time or what?
- Joyce, 47, Scott Township
Rob: AMC and FX allow their shows to run long both to satisfy the creative impulses of their showrunners and to eke out a little more show time, which means additional revenue from added commercial time.
Q: I'm going to solicit your thoughts on a trend I see developing on TV shows that I ordinarily would like very much (“The Bridge,” “House of Cards,” “Fargo” and others).
I wonder who the creators picture as viewers when they are deciding what to include in the content. I realize that all the shows are on cable and that they are on sort of late, but they also run on Infinity on demand which runs during the daytime as well.
I have college-age grandchildren, and, if a show is clever, with good dialogue, a different plot, good acting, I like to recommend it as well as sometimes to watch it with them (or others). What ruins it for me is the graphic portrayal of sex acts that one would expect to see at one of those roadside Adult Entertainment places (I'm guessing on that illustration because I've never been to one!).
The first time it happened I was visiting my sister and her husband at the shore. I was telling them about “The Bridge,” which I thought was extremely well done. As luck would have it, for some reason, they included a scene with some old woman in the back seat of a car demanding … (words are failing me here). I was so embarrassed I wanted to melt into the furniture.
The point I'm asking about is: Whom do the writers have in mind as viewers? Do they ever wonder why shows like “Downton Abbey” have such good numbers? It's not because they're so good; it's because they're relatively safe to watch.
- Doris, 79, Beaver
Rob: So here’s the thing: The people who write TV shows see themselves as artists. They go where the story takes them, and they write a description for a scene, even if it’s a sex scene, for what they envision as reality-based.
My guess is the question wouldn’t be asked about racy scenes in a book because reading is a solitary endeavor. And while viewers receive TV shows differently and sometimes in groups, I’m not sure writers approach writing any differently regardless of the audience or medium.
I did make contact with Elwood Reid, the writer on “The Bridge” responsible for the scene Doris described, but after some back-and-forth, including providing him with her questions – his response: “Not sure what you are looking for can you illuminate me?” – he went radio silent. (At a July press conference it seemed like every other word out of his mouth was the F-word, so Doris probably would not get a satisfactory response anyway.)
I guess my advice would be if you’re a fan of complex, adult-oriented dramas, maybe just keep your favorites to yourself if you are concerned about how others might react to racy scenes.
Q: Nothing sends me faster to my TV’s mute button or my DVR’s fast-forward button than a pharmaceutical commercial for prescription drugs. And no network program is more chock-full of pharmaceutical commercials than the nightly network evening news programs. Tonight I decided I’d catalog the commercials running during the “NBC Nightly News.” Here’s what they advertised: Safelight Auto Glass, Axiron (treats “low T”), Publisher’s Clearing House, Restasis (treats “dry eye”), Celebrex (treats arthritis), Prudential, Andro Gel (treats “low T”), Cialis (treats “ED”).
Does NBC really think its viewers are all arthritic, dry-eyed, impotent men with “low T” and broken windshields who plan to buy life insurance with their prize money from Publisher’s Clearing House? (Full disclosure: I once had my windshield replaced by Safelite Auto Glass.)
Or is this merely an indication that the networks can’t sell advertising to any real products or companies because no one actually watches the nightly news anymore?
- Mark, Squirrel Hill
Rob: It’s mostly the latter. Networks put on the ads they can sell. If a network can only entice companies that sell products that seemingly target older viewers, then those are the ads that will be on the air.
Ask TV questions at post-gazette.com/tv under TV Q&A (scroll down to find link on right side of the page).