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Gender-based TV

posted by Mike on 7/15/03

With the advent of cable tv in the late 70's came new ideas as to how the medium of television could be utilized. Whereas the Big 3 had always struggled to cater to all demographics,(and still do to this day) cable entrepreneurs realized that they could focus their new stations on one central demographic, which gave birth to stations catering only to children,(Disney Channel, Nickelodeon) shoppers, (QVC, The Home Shopping Network) home improvement nuts,(HGTV), music afficianados, (MTV, CMT, VH-1) sports fanatics (ESPN, The Sunshine Network) news hounds, (CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC, C-SPAN) perverts (The Playboy Channel, Penthouse TV, The Spice Channel) and most interestingly, BET, or Black Entertainment Television.

CosTV: All Cosby, All The Time

BET was the first of its kind, a channel that catered not only to one sole demographic, but one sole ethnicity, namely Afro-Americans. It started out small, with mostly re-runs of old network shows with all black casts such as The Cosby Show, Good Times, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, In Living Color, and so on. Thrown into the mix were hours of black music videos in every black-supported genre, from R & B to hip-hop to rap. After the network's innitial success, they began to branch out, creating their own films, talk shows, and original series, such as Comic View. Eventually, their proven formula even led to the opening of their own night club experience at Disney's Pleasure Island in Orlando FL, the BET Soundstage Club. They've just recently been in the news, thanks to their footage of former Republican majority leader Trent Lott explaining why the United States would have less crime and financial woes if we hadn't abolished segregation.

Being the pioneers of fresh ideas that they are, (note thick sarcasm) Disney saw this success, and sought to find a way they could capitalize on it. But short of buying BET, how could they exploit such a market? What focus group could they lean towards who would really get behind having their very own channel? Who else besides the blacks felt put upon by the predominently white male demographic that the Big 3 leaned towards? Who DIDN'T think that Baywatch and Monday Night Football were the epitomy of TV entertainment? And then it hit them. Why, horny/emotionally crippled housewives, of course!

Thanks for "plugging in" to Kotex TV!

And so, with a little pixie dust and a shitload of syndication rights, Lifetime: Television For Women hit the airwaves, and was an instant hit with the ladies. I spent the first several years of this channel's existance breezing past it in my search for movies, wrestling, and softcore nudity that I didn't have to pay a monthly fee for. I never really gave it much thought.

But then I got married. Without really knowing how it happened, my 250+ title DVD library began to collect dust, as I instead spent my nights watching films with titles like Broken Hearts: A Husband's Betrayal, Lies and Seduction, and Rose Colored Tears. When those cinematic classics weren't being played, I was occasionally blessed by actual theatrically released films like How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Fried Green Tomatoes, Steel Magnolias, Driving Miss Daisy, and God help me, Waiting To Exhale. I was lost, lost in an endless maze of estrogen-flooded melodramas and Summer's Eve commercials.

And as if that weren't bad enough, there were the syndicated TV shows. Gone was my monday night ritual of WWE Raw and re-runs of Star Trek: Voyager (or as Iliked to call it, the 7 of 9 Hour.) Instead, I was watching re-runs of Designing Women, Mad About You, The Golden Girls (produced by Disney's own Buena Vista Television) and worst of all, The damn-her-eyes fucking Nanny. Jesus Christ, Fran Drescher is an annoying bitch. Her godawful snot-clogged voice is the only reason why I sometimes hesitate when I think about popping my copy of UHF into the DVD player. And it doesn't matter that they've run the entire series through some 40 times since I got married. I still have to watch it, as though each agonizing second is a totally new experience.

What's most terrifying, however, is how the sappy, smarmy shit starts to grow on you after repeat viewings, like a fungus. While I've been fairly successful at risisting the channel's feminine charms, my own father, a battle-scarred 25 year veteran police officer, fell victim to Lifetime. Last Christmas, I bought him a wide assortment of guy videos: Braveheart, The Guns of Navarone, Saving Private Ryan, The Scorpion King, The Professional, and The Sons of Katie Elder (the Duke kicks ass.)

Well guess what. Up until recently, they all sat on his video shelf, still shrink wrapped. He sat for hours on end watching the Lifetime made-for-TV movies, which all seem to concern women cheating on their husbands, or husbands cheating on their wives, or swingers cheating on everyone, ad nauseum. Hour after hour after mindfrying fucking hour! He didn't move, but just sat there in his old sweat-stained recliner in a pair of BVD's and a wife beater, a jar of peanut butter and a bag of crackers at his side, his beer growing warm because he was too fucking afraid of missing something should he tear away his eyes from the tube long enough to take a swig. It just broke my heart to stop by and see him in that condition. I had just about made up my mind to take him out back and put five bucks worth of buckshot through his jaw to preserve what little dignity he had left, when I saw a commercial for something that I felt just mind prove to rescue his immortal soul from the menopausal hell he was trapped in...

You IDIIIOOT! TNN, I said! Not TBN! TNN!!!

Back just a few years ago, there was another country music station, the first, actually, named The Nashville Network, or TNN. When Vince McMahon moved his Raw show from USA to TNN, the focus of the network began to shift towards the same targeted demographic. They changed their name to the National Network, and replaced their country music format with not just the WWE, but re-runs of Star trek: The Next Generation, Baywatch, AmericanGladiators, etc... guy shit, basically.

Just recently, they announced yet another format change. They're now known as Spike TV, the Man's Network. Every last little bit of programming that ever linked it to it's hick past has been completely gutted out. In addition to the guycentric programming they added when WWE made the switchover, they've also added a new and revitalized Ren and Stimpy show called the Ren and Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon Show, a new cartoon from Marvel mastermind Stan Lee called Stripperella (starring the voice of Pamela Anderson), yet another cartoon called Gary The Rat that stars the voice of Frasier's Kelsey Grammar as, you guessed it, Gary the (lawyer) Rat, plus re-runs of the A-Team (Mr. T fans rejoice), I Spy, CSI, Blind Date, Highlander: The Series, MadTV, Miami Vice, RealTV, Seven Days (a short-lived sci-fi show formerly on the WB if memory serves), VIP (another Pam Anderson show), plus sports shows like Slamball, Trucks!, Car and Driver, more American Gladiators, an of course, WWE Raw.

In other words, there's enough testosterone flowing from this godsend of a station to make your wife/girlfriend grow hair on her tits just from being in the same room.

I've already started the treatments on my old man, sneaking in to spend "quality time" with him, whilst forcing him to switch stations to Spike TV and watching an animated Pamela Anderson do splits in a thong whilst blowing away bad guys from the back of her Harley. Each day I stay juuuuust a little longer, weening him off of Lifetime and getting him hooked on Spike TV, almost salivating at the thought of what wacky contraption B.A. Barracus will dream up next.

My only concern is that there's now another all women's channel on the air, Oxygen, also known as WE, or Women's Entertainment. Getting my dad dezombified from Lifetime is hard enough... the attraction of not one but TWO estrogenfest channels might be more than the old man's heart can take... so I snuck into his room while he was asleep and deprogrammed it from his VCR... it's gonna be a cold day in hell before he figures that one out.

Until then, I strongly suggest that any of you who still have somewhat pleasant relationships with your fathers watch them closely. If it can happen to a former cop who used to spend more time with his revolver than he did with his own wife, it can happen to any one of us... it could happen to you...


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