Two things you can count on during the summertime: a lot of heat, and a lot of bad television.

Neither of these, unfortunately, we can do anything about. Summers are pretty much the warmest time of the year, for reasons having to do with the laws of physics, something not even Montgomery Scott will willingly attempt to alter. Television, however, is another matter. It is subject to the laws, not of physics, but of economics.

Even grade-school children are now aware that during May there is a phenomenon known as "sweeps", during which ratings are calculated and therefore during which all manner of high-concept programming, from big-budget miniseries to Very Special Episodes of regular series, is shoved out into their living rooms in a desperate attempt to get the numbers. In recent years, one staple of May sweeps has been the Season Finale, the last new episode of the series for the year, hyped with as much enthusiasm as the network is willing to feign. Well, okay, they want a big audience, so people will watch the new episodes that fall. Even I can understand that.

Of course, the Law of Unintended Consequences kicks in at this point. If you've already seen the last new episode of the year, guess what you're going to get between now and Labor Day? That's right: reruns. The networks reason, and I use the term loosely, that their numbers are going to be down anyway during the summer, so why put on anything good? The fact that their numbers are down all the time now doesn't seem to have impressed them. Fox, to its credit, has had the occasional temerity to start some of its fall shows in mid-July — but that still means that June television will be filled with all manner of second-hand network detritus. Maybe the city pool will be open by then.

The Vent

24 May 1999

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 Copyright © 1999 by Charles G. Hill