Chuck Vs. The Chopping Block: How creative television isn’t given a chance

As I sit on the couch with my fiancé, sifting though bevy of reality shows and soap operas on our DVR, I wonder to myself how television has come to this. Now, I’m not saying that reality shows are the death of television, if I were I’d be one of the pallbearers who every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday help to bring TV to it’s final resting place. What I am saying though is that socio-economic factors of television are beginning to kill brilliant, funny and well written shows. Maybe I’m a TV snob or maybe my four years of studying television and film in college have just made me look at things with a different eye but good television is going by the wayside.

The fact that “reality television” and I use that term loosely (I mean really who has ever had to survive in the amazon, date 25 women at once or race across the world in their reality?) is cheap to produce which makes it the perfect television for networks in our current economic climate. It provides a level of entertainment that is satisfactory with minimal thought involved. When exactly did we decide to settle for something that meets our minimal requirement and that is merely satisfactory from our entertainment?

What happened to the days of well written thought provoking shows like Hillstreet Blues, Dragnet, Mash and Seinfeld?

The answer is they haven’t left, the time smart and entertaining shows have to find an audience has just diminished.

Networks are about the bottom line now more than ever. Not to say they haven’t always been about making money but along with making money, entertainment used to be a close second on the list. With the change in media — internet, cable and on demand– networks have had to change their business model in an attempt to survive. The casualty of their survival? The ability for entertaining, yet quirky, shows to gain a true audience.

You’re probably wondering the real reason for my rant and, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll tell you. Yes, TV is suffering from a lack of great shows, specifically the ones I have chosen to follow. Over the last ten years I have been a fan of some of the most “brilliant but cancelled” shows on television.

Remember the ABC’s SportsNight? Probably not because most people didn’t watch it. I do however because it happened to be one of the funniest and well written dramadies I have ever seen (I own the DVD box set and have watch all 48 episodes of the show at least 5 times a piece).

How about Fox’s Arrested Development? Another brilliant but short lived show that, featured a unique take on comedy, with highly developed characters, plot and dialogue.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip? Another show that had the potential to be great but was canceled after one season and like SportsNight, an Aaron Sorkin production (maybe I should just stop watching Sorkin shows).

Dirty, Sexy, Money… Yeah, you guessed it, Brilliant, Entertaining and Interesting yet had Gross, Ugly, Ratings.

Which brings us to my favorite show the past two years, Chuck. While the show has gone through its growing pains –not the one starring Alan Thicke, that’s a show for another rant– it has come into its own as of late. It is funny, family friendly, filled with action and brilliantly written. In TVs current state that sounds like a recipe for disaster.

Even though the show is very good and has a core fan base it was never given much chance to survive. If you look around the network lineups Chuck faces some tough competition from CBS’ comedies to ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and CW’s Gossip Girls. With competition like that no wonder Chuck routinely finished fourth in the Neilson ratings, averaging a little over 6 million viewers a week (if I had 6 million of anything I’d find it hard to view myself as a failure).

As it comes down to the wire for networks to decide on whether or not to renew shows, Chuck hangs in the balance. Call me a nerd, a TV snob or just a guy with too much time on my hands but Chuck is a show worth having on network TV and worth fighting for. If NBC cancels Chuck there will only be one word you can describe me as, disappointed.

Greg Esposito is one of Trashwire’s Twitter friends who is also the Sr. Content Director at Fanster. You can check him out on on Twitter at @the_real_espo.

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