Thursday, July 12, 2012

TV Memories for Dummies

The Nielsen Company and Sony Electronics have published a survey ranking the Top 20 TV events that were the most memorable for audiences over the past 50 years.  I was raised in a traditional 2-television household, so as expected I have strong opinions about the survey results.

First some survey background: 

The study questioned 12,000 participants online over three days in February, resulting in 1,077 completed surveys. Respondents were provided a list of choices selected by media experts that ranged from news coverage such as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 to pop culture events such as the airing of final episodes of "Friends," "Seinfeld" and "Cheers."

Right off the bat, before even seeing one survey ranking, I knew the list would upset me.  The methodology had red flags throughout.  First, it was an online survey, notorious for attracting the young and the bored, meaning their idea of memorable TV moments equated to South Park’s Cartman farting for the first time or Janet Jackson flashing her nipple.  Next, choices were limited by the “media experts”, defined as someone living in their parents’ basement and owning at least one Star Trek collectible.  Hardly reliable as a ‘media expert’ or as a babysitter.  Finally, the final episode of Friends was a possible selection as the most memorable TV moment of the past 50 years?  Where is my blood pressure medication?  I need some Barney Miller reruns – STAT!

The survey listing confirmed my worst fears.  Here are some low lights:
·         The death of Whitney Houston was 9 places ahead of the funeral of JFK.  JFK was leader of the free world felled by an assassin’s bullet.  Houston was a singer from that movie with Kevin Costner who OD’ed after years of drug abuse. 

·         Last year’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan beat the JFK assassination by 8 places.
·         The Casey Anthony verdict made the list at all.

To parody the participants in the survey, all I can say is “OMG”.  Either I am too old, the survey respondents are too young, or everyone except me is an idiot.  Clearly, former is impossible so the latter is correct. 
Without too much effort, I came up with many omissions that are significantly more memorable (or should be) than half the events on final Top 20.  My additions first.

Entertainment programs were given the short shrift.  Memorable television has to include programs that were cultural events, shows nearly everyone watched at the time.  Lucy Ricardo giving birth to Little Ricky; the finales of M*A*S*H (for a long time the most watched program of ALL-TIME), Cheers and Seinfeld; Who Shot J.R.?; Ellen coming out; Johnny Carson’s last show, or even Walter Cronkite’s final broadcast.  These have to be more memorable than the wedding of two Brits last year.  For a nation fed on the teat of the cathode ray nipple, we can do better than that.

Before you read the list below, here’s what was NOT on the list.  I came up with my list in about 5 minutes:

·         Start of the first Gulf War on CNN, 1991

·         Nixon’s televised speech announcing his resignation (and Ford’s swearing in the next day)

·         The siege at the 1972 Munich Olympics

·         Princess Diana’s wedding (way bigger deal than William and Kate’s party)

·         Clinton’s confession (Lewinsky coverage in general)

·         The freeing of the American hostages in Iran in January 1980 and their return to the U.S. (heck, the entire America Held Hostage programming for 444 consecutive days!)

·         The Waco stand off and subsequent siege on the compound

·         The rescue of the Chilean miners

And finally, the event excluded from the list that makes the list entirely irrelevant and maddening:

·         The 1969 landing on the moon

I know that those readers under 25 are wondering why Susan Boyle’s surprising British American Idol performance, the Paris Hilton sex video and that cat trapped in the paper bag are not included on the list of the most memorable for TV audiences over the past 50 years.  Uh, that’s the Internet, Junior.   You haven’t lived until you’ve had to get up out of your chair in order to change the channel or adjust the reception by wrapping tin foil around a set of Radio Shack rabbit ears (ask your parents what I’m talking about).

The Top 20 List as reported by Nielsen and Sony:

1.       September 11 attacks 2001
2.       Hurricane Katrina - the levees break 2005
3.       OJ Simpson murder verdict 1995
4.       Challenger space shuttle disaster 1986
5.       Death of Osama bin Laden 2011
6.       OJ Simpson high-speed car chase 1994
7.       Earthquake/tsunami in Japan 2011
8.       Columbine school shooting 1999
9.       BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 2010
10.   Funeral of Princess Diana 1997
11.   Death of Whitney Houston 2012
12.   Capture and execution of Saddam Hussein 2006 
13.   Barack Obama acceptance speech 2008
14.   Prince William, Kate Middleton wedding 2011
15.   Assassination of John F. Kennedy 1963
16.   Oklahoma City bombing 1995
17.   Bush/Gore election results 2000
18.   Los Angeles riots/ Rodney King beating 1992
19.   Casey Anthony murder trial verdict 2011
20.   Funeral of John F. Kennedy 1963

Pathetic.  What am I forgetting that didn't make my list or theirs?

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