At least there are people out there who want to help! I hope it's not too little, too late. He gives the addresses for people to send postcards.
Jonathan Storm | Want decent family TV? Then help save 2 shows
By Jonathan Storm
Nobody likes a tattletale.
Take the Parents Television Council, which says it has one million members. Nattering nabobs of negativism, they spend most of their time howling about the dire state of TV, picking one risque incident here and one tasteless epithet there, and flooding the Federal Communications Commission with complaints.
Guys, here's a chance to be positive for a change: Two of the shows you love, 8 p.m. dramas that ooze family and moral values from every scene, are hanging by cobwebs, though still not canceled.
The threads holding NBC's American Dreams and CBS's Joan of Arcadia on the air would snap even before Alias' Sydney Bristow could climb back to safety. But, aided by the shrill cries of the council, as well as thousands of other less politicized viewers, rescue may still be possible.
Last month, NBC cut the production of Dreams, the moving story of a Philadelphia family in the '60s, when the times, they were a-changin'. Last week, the network moved the show from Sundays to Wednesdays. Despite powerful story lines and a soundtrack that in a single show can include everything from Paul Butterfield to Paul Revere and the Raiders, with Bob Dylan in between, Dreams couldn't keep up with the joy and bathos of ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Dreams will wrap its third season running Wednesdays at 8 through the end of the month.
Joan of Arcadia, a surprise hit last year, bumps along on Fridays, dwindling in the ratings despite a close connection to God. He doesn't just return the producers' phone calls. He also shows up on-screen every week, in different guises, to push teenager Joan Girardi down paths that not only lead to spiritual awareness and self-discovery, but are also just plain fascinating.
March Madness basketball blankets CBS the next couple of weeks. Joan will return April 1, with four consecutive new episodes before the curtain falls for the season.
Gorgeously acted by multigenerational casts, with voices unheard anywhere else in prime time, the shows are unique: satisfying for adults, with strong hooks for preteen and older children. But neither will make a peep during the sweeps in May, when networks go all out to maximize viewership - and when the new fall lineups are announced.
Joan ranks No. 1 with the council, for family-friendly programming, "uplifting without being saccharine," says the endorsement. Dreams comes in No. 9 on the Top 10 list, which, it must be acknowledged, includes Home Edition (No. 6) as well as such dramatically mediocre fare as the WB's 7th Heaven and a couple of Pax programs.
A sad message in the ratings decline of both Joan (tied for 72d place among 182 major network shows) and Dreams (tied for 79th) is that Americans in general don't much like complex TV drama unless it contains a dose of sex or violence. But the Parents Television Council wields power, even if it doesn't always reflect popular taste. (CBS's CSI, television's No. 1 drama, and Two and a Half Men, the No. 2 comedy, are on its Worst 10 list.)
And there are some important, receptive ears at both networks. Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Universal Television Group - the big boss - swears up and down the flagpole (when Fear Factor contestants aren't slipping off the pig grease on it) that American Dreams is his favorite show.Nina Tassler developed Joan of Arcadia before being named president of CBS Entertainment last year.
Networks can make money besides selling just raw ratings. You don't think they could get a premium from advertisers by pushing Dreams' and Joan's quality and family appeal?
Trekkies have raised millions of dollars in a worldwide appeal to keep the Starship Enterprise flying, or whatever it does. Family-oriented folks should be able to beat that effort for Joan and Dreams.
Near the top of the council's home page (www.parentstv.org
) is a link that says, "File an FCC Complaint." For the next two months, the group could give up its role that by comparison makes Dreams' bratty tattler Patty Prior look like an angel. It could change the click to a direct, Don't-Cancel-Dreams line to Zucker, and add another urging the renewal of Joan that goes to Leslie Moonves, copresident and co-chief operating officer of Viacom Inc., which owns CBS.
Postcards - not letters - can make an effective flank attack, both for council folk and the rest of the people in the world who would like to act independently to support TV that is both entertaining and important. Flood the honchos' mailboxes at the addresses in the accompanying box.
And don't feel as if it's a big waste of time. How can you give up on family television, when it can offer so much? Be like Joan, who goes with God even when he gets her so confused, she could spit.
"You feel frustrated and victimized," he told her last week. "Yet you're still talking to me. So, somehow, you know this isn't pointless."
Jonathan Storm | Where to Write to Save Two Shows
For American Dreams:
Jeff Zucker, President
NBC Universal Television Group
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10112
For Joan of Arcadia:
Copresident, Co-Chief Operating Officer
CBS Television City
7800 W. Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, Calif. 90036.
Jonathan Storm |
Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC
Joan of Arcadia
Fridays at 8 p.m., resuming April 1,