U.S. cultural changes in attitude toward TV
David Bauder | 8/16/2014, 1:17 p.m.
AP Television Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - Manjula Stokes has twice sworn off television, once throwing a set off her deck in a fit over an ex-husband’s sports obsession. Now she’s a devotee of programs like "Downton Abbey,’’ "Mad Men,’’ "Survivor’’ and "Masters of Sex.’’
The teacher from Santa Cruz, California, illustrates a subtle change in society’s attitude toward television. The medium is growing in stature, propelled by both art and technology. More worthy programs are available at a time when viewers are becoming more comfortable setting up their own schedules to watch.
"I feel it’s more like reading a good book,’’ Stokes said. "The acting is better, the direction is better. I think it’s more serious as an art form.’’
A CBS survey of 700 people in the U.S. with Internet and television connections last year found that 28 percent said they’re watching more television than they did a year ago. Seventeen percent say they’re watching less, with the remainder indicating their habits are unchanged.
That may not seem like much, but there’s a long history of people saying they are watching, or plan to watch, less TV _ even as Nielsen measurements proved the opposite is true.
In other words, liking television is becoming more socially acceptable.
"You can go to a sophisticated party in New York City now and people will be talking about television programming, not the latest art film or the latest play,’’ said David Poltrack, CBS’ veteran chief researcher. "You can go to a bar in a lower socio-economic neighborhood and they’ll be talking about television. They may be talking about different programs, but they’ll be talking about television.’’
Now, for every award-winning drama there’s a series about botched plastic surgeries, naked dating or Kardashians. More than one, truthfully. But the push among cable networks during the past decade to make their own original series has significantly increased the amount of quality programs.
For years, polls uncovered a certain shameful attitude toward watching television.
When asked in 2000 how much time they spent watching TV the previous day, 84 percent of respondents told the Pew Research Center it was less than four hours. That didn’t jibe with the Nielsen company’s finding that the average American that year watched four hours, 15 minutes of television a day.
A Gallup poll in 1990 found 49 percent of people said they spent too much time watching television. Only 19 percent said they watched too little. Nine years ago when CBS began its annual survey, more people said they were cutting back on TV time.
This year, Nielsen estimates the average American watches four hours, 50 minutes of TV a day.
"I think the quality is better,’’ said Yael Chanoff, a 25-year-old writer from San Francisco. She’s a fan of smart comedies like NBC’s "Parks & Recreation.’’ Many older shows Chanoff has seen, even hits like "Friends,’’ strike her as cliche-ridden.
Some better shows now have an attention to detail that reminds Stokes, who is 59, of work done by the MGM movie studio during the last century.