One reason it doesn't seem like Thursday is that there was no Survivor tonight. The May network ratings sweeps ended last night, and we're left with the scraps and leavings of the programming menu. Anything the networks think people will watch has already been used up, and they have a few months to burn off the dregs. They'll show us things we've already seen, or didn't watch the first time, plus whatever they thought wasn't good enough during money time.
With so many entertainment choices available, there's little reason to watch lousy network television. I do anyway, though. It takes me back to my childhood, when there was only NBC, ABC and CBS. No Fox, no MTV, no HBO, no pay-per-view, no VCRs, no DVDs. And everyone you knew watched the same shows, so it was a way to connect with people.
When the Beatles were on The Ed Sullivan Show, everybody watched and everybody talked about it the next day. But everybody watched The Brady Bunch or Lost In Space every week and talked about them, too. It was just there, part of the landscape like traffic and the weather. It brought people together like nothing in today's fragmented culture can.
And it's not as if the programming was any better back then. It was actually better in the 1950s, with live drama and specials that were called "spectaculars," than it was in the 1960s, when the networks could throw out anything and get a third of the viewers to watch. Fragmented we are now, but the variety means that there's almost always something that'll hold my interest.
So why do I still watch network shows like Friends and NYPD Blue, when I have so many options? Partly because I think they're good shows. You'll notice I didn't include Baby Bob or Fear Factor. I'm aware of the bad shows, but I don't watch them. I'm glad they're out there, because people have different tastes, but I make choices based on what seems like quality to me. And remember, I used to watch The Brady Bunch and Lost in Space, back in the day when there was a new episode every week.
But the other reason I still pay attention to the networks is that I remember the sense of community we had when the choices were fewer. It makes me feel like part of something bigger when I know millions of people are feeding off the same wave length as I am. Movies are great on DVD, technically stunning and all, but watching them by myself (which I do, a lot) seems somehow colder and more removed than watching ER with my 50 million friends.
But not this week, because it's a rerun.