Parks and Recreation Creator Talks TV’s New Routine
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TEXT OF COMMENTARY
KAI RYSSDAL: We’re running a series of commentaries this week asking the question: “What Now?” What’s going to be in the news in 2011 that we’re going to have to figure out? We’ve done health care and financial reform. But not everything has to be serious policy wonk stuff.
And so, in that light, NBC announced not too long ago that this month it’s going to be airing half-hour comedies in the ten p.m. hour on Thursdays. But ten o’clock is supposed to be for dramas. It’s the hour of “ER” and “CSI” and “Law and Order.”
Commentator and co-creator of the NBC series “Parks and Recreation” Michael Schur says it’s time for a change.
MICHAEL SCHUR: Television-watching has always been about routine. In the old days we would all gather in front of the TV at a certain time each night, turn to a certain channel, and watch a certain show. Incidentally, by “the old days” I mean like 2002. And the traditional Big Four networks had routines of their own: They scheduled game shows at 7, family comedies at 8, edgier comedy or light drama at 9, serious dramas at 10, local news at 11.
So why are these routines changing? Because right now there is too much good TV.
Now, some people may scoff at that notion. There is still an odd stigma attached to watching TV — I suppose because it seems unserious, or disposable. People don’t like to think of themselves as TV watchers. They think of themselves as the kind of people who read thick novels.
And when you work in television, people constantly go out of their way to tell you that they hate television. “I don’t watch anything on TV,” they’ll say, before rattling off a dozen shows they “sometimes catch a little of” or “watch occasionally.” They also tell you how terrible everything is. “Why is it all so bad?” they’ll ask, the implication being: It is all your fault.
But in reality, everyone watches TV, and for good reason — There are more networks making more high-quality shows than ever before. There are quality shows of every genre, about every subject, on every night. Cop shows, legal shows, medical shows, nature shows. There are like six different reality shows about baking cakes. Whatever you’re interested in, TV is currently catering to your taste. Especially if you like shows about baking cakes.
And of course, the more choices there are, the less routine things get. That means it’s time to create new routines. Maybe it’s comedies at 10. Maybe the network miniseries will make a comeback. Whatever the case, the traditional networks understand that TV watching has fundamentally changed, and they need to change too.
But really, what does it matter? I never watch TV anyway. It’s all terrible. Except for “Parks and Recreation,” coming to NBC January 20th at 9:30, which I hear is amazing.
RYSSDAL: Michael Schur — in case you couldn’t have guessed — is the co-creator of “Parks and Recreation.” Tomorrow, David Frum on what’s next in our relationship with China. ‘Til then, we’d love to hear what you are or aren’t watching.
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