Thoughts, notes, observations on the everyday nonsense of American Pop Culture from one of the most not-hip people on the face of the planet...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

There's a sci-fi fan in most of us

Obviously something spurred my renewed interest in bitching about pop culture - and it was this. More specifically, it was the New York Times' TV Watch columnist being so hopelessly out of touch that I was a bit taken aback.

Take a look at this passage: "Lost” is at heart a science-fiction thriller, while “Heroes” is more of a comic book, but both genres have a similar appeal: they provide an alternative society for those who don’t fit comfortably into their own. (That is to say, smart, socially awkward adults and all 12-year-old boys.)

Er...what?

Now, I don't just take this to heart because I am a nerd - it's a whole other blog post to go into how not all nerds are socially awkward or 12-year-olds - but rather, I'm bothered by this as a journalist. Are we still passing around the stereotype about sci-fi TV fans, even after it has been disproved dozens of times by demographic studies? Is the allegedly most important newspaper in the U.S. still in the dark about this?

This column surmises that not only at shows like "Heroes" and "Lost" successful because of their appeal to those socially awkward nerds and kids, but so are programs such as "Smallville", "Battlestar Galactica", "Medium" and "Ghost Whisperer". Right. Of those six programs, four are on broadcast TV. Of those, two are frequent Nielsen top 20 performers ("Heroes" was #13 last week).

Are we to believe that 13.6 million Americans (the audience for last week's "Heroes") - or at least a substantial part of them - are socially awkward nerds and 12-year-olds? This is a tremendously popular show that is obviously watched by a wide range of people - it would have to be to even crack the top 20. Case in point: Amongst the coveted 18-49 demographic, "Heroes" ranked #9 - one slot above "24" and above a least one of those CSIs - hardly just the maladjusted and hopelessly single. I'm sure the ratings for "Lost" when it returns this week will only be higher.

Aside from the ratings, one has to wonder if this columnist actually talks to anyone besides their friends who watch TV. Just because their circle of friends and coworkers are those oh-so-typical "Grey's Anatomy", "CSI" and "American Idol" watchers doesn't mean that they can't crossover in viewership with sci-fi and fantasy shows. I mean, what is "Grey's Anatomy" if not a fantasy show anyway? How many real-life doctors have time for that much hooking up?

Get your facts and your unfounded opinions, straight Ms. TV Expert. Sci-Fi is bigger than it has been in years - and it isn't just because of us mouth-breathers. Your friends are very likely into “those nerdy shows” too.

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