– Has Jon Stewart’s career benefited from the fall of America? New York Magazine points out that America’s decade of domestic decline has provided The Daily Show with plenty of material, and “unfortunately things are getting even funnier.” Stewart says he likes to figure out “where the media is trying to build the narrative and where the story lines are going to go,” in order to position his political satire a bit higher on the joke spectrum than a kick in the groin. Since the beginning of the new century, with politicians increasingly appearing as mouthpieces for cable producers and the media transforming the way it is delivered and processed, Stewart has built longevity via counter-culture-political-comedy: “As truth has been overrun by truthiness and facts trampled by lies, he and The Daily Show have become an invaluable corrective—he’s Cronkite, the most trusted man in America.”
– While American TV audiences are reportedly realizing that reality TV is the most overdone ‘genre’, reality shows still dominated summer ratings. Within the 18-49 demographic, fifteen of the top twenty shows were reality/unscripted programs. The NYT points out a discrepancy between what viewers want to watch and what they actually watch. It’s like wanting to watch a beautiful sunset when there is a train wreck on the other side of the street. Jersey Shore is the top reality show (4.4 million people watched the Sept. 2 show, with a median age of 23.5), which is enabling MTV to make a killing on ads. Some advertisers are deterred from the less-than-prim content of Jersey Shore, but others aren’t shy about cashing in on the chaos. The networks relied on America’s Got Talent and Big Brother to get them through the summer, which cost about half of what a scripted show costs to produce. As long as the staple reality shows are bringing in viewers, the networks don’t see the point in taking a risk on wild card reality series that could crash and burn (or take off, like Jersey Shore). Networks do admit that even the small cable successes will influence their programming decisions next summer, the goal, according to an executive, is to make an “explosive version of one of those.”
– Meanwhile, HBO subscribers are dwindling. Even with their star show True Blood and the multi-Emmy winning mini-series The Pacific, HBO still marked its lowest subscription level in four years. THR suspects that DirecTV is the villain; they’re locked in negotiations and in order to get the desired deal DirectTV pulled back on HBO’s promotional support. HBO, however, claims the villain is the decrease in multi-channel subscribers. HBO co-president Eric Kessler says, “This kind of fluctuation is common throughout the year. The most important measurement of success is financial and HBO will enjoy another record year in revenue and profit.” This explanation would be stronger if Starz and Showtime’s numbers weren’t growing. At the end of the day, THR finds, “when a distributor the size of DirecTV pulls back…a pay-TV network is going to feel the pain like a vampire at sunrise.” HBO could use another crime family on their side. The Sopranos ended in 2007. Luckily, Boardwalk Empire may lure back some of the viewers that haven’t considered sexy-vampire-soap-operas as worthy as well-written drama.