Monday, October 16, 2006



In a column that is, thankfully not behind the Times Select wall, David Carr notes how the modern PC -- with video-cameras, microphones and speakers have become a much more entertaining type of "reality-show" than those on television:

Computers, which were designed to save time, have become machines that make it disappear and threaten to take traditional models of wasting hours (i.e., television) with them. About 20 percent of the audience of “Lost” has gone missing since last year, even though the show has suffered no discernible decline in quality. It is less likely that its audience fled to NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” in the same time slot than that it found other diversions.
Carr is only partly right -- but the full reason is certainly connected to the basic theme of his column. The PC, like other newer devices in the tech world, have freed people of having to be on a distant individual's time schedule.

Daddy Carr doesn't have to watch "Lost" at the 9 p.m. Wednesday slot ABC has allocated for it because he has either Tivo-ed (or, at best taped it). But, as Carr does mention, ABC has now made "Lost" (and other top dramas) available for free at the site (with only having to watch one 30-second commercial between segments). It is highly probable that ABC hasn't "Lost" any of its viewers to either family pursuits or to the competition. It is more likely that those viewers have time-shifted and are now watching "Lost" at a more convenient time. However, if they are doing that at ABC's Web-site, they aren't registering in the Nielsen rating system. So, that has a palpable impact on advertising dollars. But the viewer/consumer doesn't care about that.

By coincidence, one of the characters on my current favorite show, NBC's "Heroes" is a Japanese young man who finds that he can break the space-time continuum. Hiro (that's his actual name) manages to teleport himself from Tokyo to New York AND make five-week jumps back and forth through time. The show is smart and (as it is co-written by professional comic book writer Jeph Loeb) one of the smoothest adaptations of classic "super-hero" archetypes to live television I've ever seen.

In addition to its Monday first-run showing at 9 p.m. on NBC, the network makes the full episode available at for a week AND also airs it on sister network, the Sci-Fi Channel at 7 P.M. Fridays. To borrow an old NBC tag line, the show may be "Must-See" TV for me. But, I'm not under any pressure to see it tonight, as I would have been "forced" to just a few years ago.

The viewers are not lost; we may not be super-heroes, but we all have the ability to time-shift now.

UPDATE: Now includes links to the shows and creators mentioned.

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