Intelligent TV and Online Communities

There is a battle going on in the world of television.  On one side are the lovers of "intelligent" TV.  Shows like Lost, West Wing, 24, and others that require a level of concentration and intelligent involvement in the story lines.  On the other side, is "Darnell" TV – reality shows (often created by Mike Darnell, VP of Reality Programming for Fox) which focus on showing Americans at their worst, put into idiotic situations to make them seem as dumb, talentless, and shocking as possible.  Darnell has single handedly made a career out of killing originality in television and defining Fox as the copycat network.  Ok, Fox does have Jack Bauer on 24 and the Simpsons, but on the reality TV side – they have launched a long string of ripoff shows from other networks including Nanny 911 (Ripoff of SuperNanny), Trading Spouses (Ripoff of Wife Swap), The Swan (Ripoff of Extreme Makeover), Hell’s Kitchen (Ripoff of their own American Idol), The Next Great Champ (Ripoff of The Contender), The Rebel Billionaire (Ripoff of The Apprentice), So you think you can dance (ANOTHER Ripoff of American Idol), and the soon to be launched Skating with Celebrities (Ripoff of ABC’s hit from last season- Dancing with the Stars).  Even their online promotions for original non-reality shows are ripoffs with Stewie doing the Subservient Chicken thing …

At the crossroads of the growth of consumer generated media and the growth of the Internet, a signal that unoriginal programming is becoming less popular is the rise of online communities like Media Village allowing TV watchers to interact with others about the shows that they love and share insights and viewpoints on the plotlines and characters.  Loyal fans driving word of mouth interest and more viewers for their favorite programs.  This is the direction that television is heading – allowing viewers to have a more immersive experience in their favorite shows through online communities. It’s an idea that the creators of Lost have embraced since the show’s meteoric rise in fame last year.  Many other shows are following suite – all seeking to help their audience to be more emotionally invested in a show.  Darnell’s empire of shock and awe television that gives viewers "a great hour" will not longer be enough to captivate viewers.  Especially in a future filled with better, cheaper and more ubiquitous DVRs, where no one will have to "just watch what’s on" ever again.