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Was TV better When just 3 Networks?

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by JamesSmith, Jun 25, 2010.

  1. JamesSmith

    JamesSmith Well-Known Member

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    Dear Guys:


    In a strange bout of nostaligia, I was thinking there was wonderful simplicity, when years back, there was just three networks. That being, ABC, CBS, and NBC; okay, okay, you could include PBS, maybe.


    Back than, they all started their new seasons the same week, they all started pretty much the same time, you knew when the new episodes were out and you knew when it rerun season. The new seasons started after labor day, and pretty much ran to March/April. Than it was rerun summer.


    But know you have to jump over forty plus some channels to find what you're looking for. You have to go to Nickelodeon to see Penquins of Madagascar, you have to go to SCIFI Channel to record StarGate Universe, you have to pop over to TVLand to see Bonanza. You get the picture.


    But now, the networks don't even rerun right. They keep switching the times, so you can't keep all the schedules right.


    Ahh. There was a simplicity when there was just three networks, and a little bit of everything for everyone. Now everything is demographically done, specialized, and rated.


    What do you guys think? Am I being too overly simplistic? Remember in this "golden age" few people had VCR's.


    James
     
  2. TravisR

    TravisR Well-Known Member

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    It would be nice if there was one channel that was completely tailored to my tastes but in my opinion, TV was not better with just three channels. You might have to move around the dial and keep a number of channels schedules in mind but the variety (shows on cable that would be censored on network TV to classic TV shows to documentaries to the weather channel) makes it worth the effort in my opinion. If there was still only three channels, we wouldn't see anything that was more than 9 months old.
     
  3. Jeff Willis

    Jeff Willis Well-Known Member

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    My opinion is "yes", the overall series quality was better but then, that's the era in which I grew up watching series TV so it's no surprise I'd see it that way.


    I'm the first to admit that there are some outstanding quality network series that have aired since, say, the late 60's-mid 70's. I own some of them. But in looking at broadcasting trends, particularly, imo, since the mid-90's, I've not seen much that interests me....reality shows...talent competitions, I just can't get interested in series such as that content. I own 3 DVD sets of post-2000 era shows. I've heard about a few other shows that sound interesting but since most recent shows have or are being released on DVD, I can check those out at any time.

    The big downside, and also the upside in recent times, is that we didn't have the home video technology available to us back during the time when there were so many quality shows being aired against one another in the same time slots. Fortunately, many of those shows have seen DVD releases.


    Bottom line to me is that I appreciate more as time passes, the broadcast codes that were maintained back in the time of classic TV shows. There's no need, imo, to be constantly inundaded with offensive language and graphic scenes to experience an episodal story in a TV series. Those particular methods of screen story-telling can be easily experienced on the movie/film side with DVD's and/or a visit to a local theater.

    If the question was more geared toward "Is it better now due to the many additions and expansion of TV programming delivery choices which give the consumer a much-improved menu of available and diverse programming?" Then, the answer would be "yes" (it's better than the days of the big 3 imo. But, quantity doesn't always translate to quality.


    As a sports fan, that's where I've most enjoyed the expansion of channel choices and delivery methods during the past 20-25 years.
     
  4. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Well-Known Member

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    the arrival of the VCR was both liberating and numbing at the same time.

    When you gain the ability to time shift- to pause, and rewind and replay at will- the experience itself is instantaneously diminished. Along with convenience comes commonality. In the pre VCR days, even a re-run could be a huge event. If as a kid, I couldn't stay awake and missed seeing King Kong on the Late, Late movie- it might be years before I would get a chance to ever see it again. If you got up in the middle of a show to use the bathroom, you might actually miss something if you didn't get your business done quickly.

    There's an immediacy there to the experience that is more like going to the movies (or even, like life itself).


    When you can bend these things to your whims (stop/play/rewind/replay), they lose a lot of their majesty.


    Having a surfeit of choice is somewhat along the same lines.

    It's amazing (and pathetic) that with over 1000 DVDs, and hundreds unwatched, that I can still look over my shelves and find there's nothing I feel like watching. There is definitely something to be said for forcing yourself to enjoy something. And that's exactly what we did a lot of back in the 3 networks days.
     
  5. JamesSmith

    JamesSmith Well-Known Member

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    Thanks Paul. I'm ashamed that I'm in the same boat. I have about 20 DVD's that I've purchased since last Christmas, and I should get watching them before buying any others.

    Tonight, I made one big concession I watched "Cold Turkey," which I purchased two months ago. A great classic from the early seventies. At least I think it is.


    James
     
  6. DaveHof

    DaveHof Well-Known Member

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    I believe it was better with just three networks (and a few UHF stations) as well. Yes, we have 300 channels now, and each one of them is bound to stumble across a good new show at least once, so there is certainly a lot of quality programs available - but how many people are watching them? Over the past few years I've heard great things about 'The Wire,' 'Life on Mars,' 'Arrested Development,' 'Breaking Bad' and several other shows. But I've never watched any of them, and don't know anyone who has either. Really good shows don't stand out from the crowd anymore. 'Lost' and 'Glee' managed to break through the clutter, but the number of people watching them is approx. one-third of those who watched 'The Munsters' in the 1960s.


    The same thing is happening with music- there used to be a reliable supply chain from the record companies to the radio stations to the record stores. Now the new music scene is chaotic - can anyone name 5 artists from the last 10 years who have a shot at the kind of longevity that would qualify for the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame?


    With hundreds of stations requiring hundreds of new programs every year, quality control becomes an afterthought.
     
  7. Jeff Willis

    Jeff Willis Well-Known Member

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  8. pitchman

    pitchman Well-Known Member

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    Well, one thing for sure, the primetime season was definitely longer back then. With many shows averaging 36-39 episodes, it was nearly twice as long as our modern 22 episode season! On the downside, though, there was still plenty of "me-too" programming. If westerns were popular, there would be three or four to choose from just about every night of the week. From the tried and true like Gunsmoke, there was also The Rifleman, Bat Masterson, Maverick, Sugarfoot, Have Gun Will Travel, Wagon Train, etc. When detective shows were in vogue, there was no escaping Peter Gunn, Dragnet, 77 Sunset Strip, Hawaiian Eye, Surf Side Six, Checkmate, etc. People who complain about all the procedurals on CBS these days may not realize that there is strong historical precedence for the CBS programming strategy.


    I agree with others who say there was more variety back then. I also think the networks were willing to take more risks, especially when it came to live programming. Outside of sports and news programming or the occasional live entertainment event (Academy Awards, etc) there is nothing like Playhouse 90 or Studio One on TV these days. There is an immediacy to "live" drama that is hard to beat. By the same token, there was nothing like Lost or Glee back then, so I guess we have a tradeoff of sorts.
     
  9. Regulus

    Regulus Well-Known Member

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    Back then, there weren't as many Commercials as they have now. An hour long show ran about 52 minutes, a half-hour show ran 26 minutes. A Company woulds sponsor the entire show, and they'd get half the time allotted for their product. Commercial breaks ran for 1 or two minutes, and that was it! Today, I have seen as many as 28 minutes of the hour set aside for Commercials, and if that isn't enough, EVEN MORE Ads are tossed at you during the Program, through "Pop-Up". Scroll and Banner Ads. If I hadn't started collecting DVDs, I'd probably be in the Booby Hatch right now!
     
  10. Joe Karlosi

    Joe Karlosi Well-Known Member

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    AMEN. Yes, I think it was better when there were just 3 networks. The shows were better too. I think it's very telling that today there are HUNDREDS of TV stations yet not a damn thing to watch.
     
  11. Neil Brock

    Neil Brock Well-Known Member

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  12. TravisR

    TravisR Well-Known Member

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    I understand that most people here hate everything made after 1975 but if there was still only about 3 channels to choose from, you'd only see the new shows that you hate so much and none of the shows that you do like. So how are hundereds of channels, which provide you with some content that you actually like, better than 3 channels, which would provide you exclusively with content that you hate?
     
  13. BobO'Link

    BobO'Link Well-Known Member

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    ^I think to say that "most people here hate everything made after 1975" is a bit strong and off by a couple of decades. From what I've read *many* folks here like/love shows made as recently as this year. Yes, some decades were better than others, but it's all a perspective thing. I tend to prefer shows from the mid 50's to early 70's *but* those years are what I grew up watching. Personally, I own shows from every decade of TV and have *many* post '75 shows that are truly favorites ("Big Bang Theory" is a recent one), it's just that the pre-'75 tend to outnumber the rest when taken as a decade by decade comparison.


    I don't believe there's any "hate" of post '75 programs, but rather a "hate" of the vast dilution of the overall TV product. By that I mean the massive intrusion of commercial matter which includes "bugs", "pop-ups/ons", as well as the proliferation of "reality", "contest", "game" type programming in prime-time. We know that some commercial matter must be in place to pay for "free" TV (which is not and has *never* been "free") but when I watch 4 minutes of programming only to have 5 minutes of commercials... well let's just say enough is enough.


    It's just more difficult to find "quality" programming following the years cable started becoming a national phenomema (about 1975 or so) as the increase in channels meant fewer average viewers per channel. Cable could afford to take more chances as the advertisers weren't "in bed" with them as much as with the "Big 3" *and* cable wasn't bound by FCC "decency" regulations/rules nor air time constraints for certain program types. This caused a major shudder at the network level and started the scramble to get "riskier" programming out. Frequently, "riskier" meant "rauncher" which typically equates to lower overall quality. That doesn't mean everything was bad, just that "quality" became harder to find.


    So... was it better with only 3 networks? In some respects, yes. But cable provided competition and push the networks truly needed. Yes, it's seemingly gotten out of hand with the increasing number of specialized channels, but were it not for cable I don't believe we'd have shows like "Arrested Development", "Battlestar Galactica" (new one), *any* of the "Star Trek" franchise other than TOS, and "The Office", just to name a few.

    The truly better thing about the 3 network system was that a "marginal" program actually stood a chance of finding an audience since the networks would typically keep a underperforming series around for an entire season rather than only a few episodes. Mid-season replacements were rare and truly came into vogue along with the channel expansion/competition cable provided. If a show were being "tried out" it tended to be during the summer months and not during the regular season.


    So... *hate* post 1975 programs? Nope. Not at all.
     
  14. Ethan Riley

    Ethan Riley Well-Known Member

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    TV has never been "better." And it's always had tons of bad shows and tons of good shows. Let's be honest. Think back to 1975...the critics were saying that "M*A*S*H*" was the only good show on tv. Yet we fondly recall dozens more shows from that decade, due to sentiment and individual taste. What's changed? Nothing, except that there's more networks and more shows, which means more bad shows, and more good shows. There's just more. In every decade, there's a few stand-out quality shows and tons of lousy shows.


    Our sentiment sometimes clouds our taste. We kids of the 70s fondly remember Charlie's Angels, but the critics of the time told us it was soft-porn rubbish. And they said Dynasty and Dallas were trash, and that 90210 wouldn't last 13 episodes. Some howled bloody murder at the apparent tastelessness of All in the Family. Some people argued that I Love Lucy was tiresome and repetitive. But to this day, these shows retain the fans that they deserve; we like 'em, even if they're not Shakespeare. Every decade had dozens and dozens of crummy shows, and that includes the 50s, 60s and 70s. Why should today be any different?


    But in terms of quality, nothing has changed. There are top-notch quality shows airing today on every channel; you just have to find them. And with dvd, we have the luxury of picking and choosing our favorite shows from any decade, and we can form our own private programming, night after night. We now have the luxury of watching only the best tv shows, and our favorites as well. We are no longer chained to the whims of 3 sets of network programming executives. We can just watch what we like.
     
  15. TravisR

    TravisR Well-Known Member

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    That wasn't the point of my post and while the year may vary, there is definitely a vocal group in this section that hate or won't even give a modern show a chance simply because it's a new show.
     
  16. Gary OS

    Gary OS Well-Known Member

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    Absolutely agree, Howie. Very well said. It's always easier to knock down the proverbial strawman than to discuss things on a truly even keel. And to say there are folks here that literally hate everything made after '75 is a strawman, plain and simple.


    In spite of that, you've hit the nail on the head with clarity. All the points you raise, along with standards of decency, are the reasons I generally prefer older material to newer shows. But that's not to say there aren't some neat thows that are still being released. My family enjoys several shows that have been made in both the 90's and 2000's.

    I will side with those that believe there was more quality, in general, when we only had 3 networks. When you look at the ratio of stations today versus only 3 major networks years ago, I just don't see the ratio of good to bad being the same. I think there are a lot more stinkers today even though there are many more opportunities to offer quality programs.


    Gary "good topic" O.
     
  17. TravisR

    TravisR Well-Known Member

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    Once again, that wasn't the point of my post.
     
  18. Jeff Willis

    Jeff Willis Well-Known Member

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    We believe you, but I think I'm not the only one that interpreted it a certain way.


    As for me, it was mentioned that they have TV/DVD sets from every decade. That's a good point and I'm included in that group as well. Most of my sets reside in the 50's-90's decades.
     
  19. Tory

    Tory -The Snappy Sneezer- -Red Huck-

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    Yes, so much so. Specific TV stations killed diversity in television and ruined exposure to classic material. I can see where it opened doors but aside from TCM, most channels are abandoning their purpose and looking the same, showing the same program over and over again. I love SpongeBob, I think it is a great show for kids but they shouldn't be watching it for hours on end, once a day or week is enough. The same with all other shows, even MASH. When there were only a handful of stations everybody had seen some classic films now the kids just watch Nick or Disney, others just watch sports all day or Lifetime. We are losing diversity and getting stuck in ruts.
     
  20. Guest

    yes some of the worst tv shows have came from the fox network
     

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