Monday, February 16, 2015

Highlight TV

Last night there were a couple of shows on against one another that ended up drawing a lot of eyes -- that three-and-a-half-hour 40th anniversary Saturday Night Live show and the almost-as-long NBA All-Star Game.

Reading over on ESPN today, it looks like the ratings for the SNL show added up to 23.1 million viewers, which they’re saying is the “most watched prime-time entertainment telecast” for NBC since 2004. Meanwhile the NBA says the All-Star Game drew 6.1 million viewers -- big for the game, but still behind shows like 60 Minutes (10.4 million), CSI (almost 7 million), and a couple of others (according to TV by the Numbers).

I had various work to do during those prime time hours last night -- including taking care of the horses as we ready for a winter storm later today -- but when in front of the teevee I ended up flipping back and forth between SNL and the NBA. Neither was all that compelling, as it turned out, which made it easy to tear away from one to check in on the other.

There was a lot of buzz for that SNL special, and while the show featured a lot of fun “call backs” it overall seemed to fall well below expectations. The All-Star Game was hyped as usual, too, although I think most basketball fans know better than to expect too much from what is traditionally more an exhibition than a competition -- although really all that gets exhibited is a predilection for three-pointers, alley-oops, and lackadaisical defense.

Perhaps going back and forth between the two artificially encouraged the identifying of parallels, but the two programs struck me as being very similar in both form and content.

Both were in New York. Both were essentially live, albeit with a lot of pretaped material interspersed and a healthy percentage of time taken up by commercials. The SNL show was sort of a “best of” or “greatest hits”-type package, while the All-Star Game is also nominally presenting the NBA’s best, though in truth there was a lot of non-greatest stuff mixed in with both.

The SNL show featured a lot of montages that rather than present entire skits just showed a few seconds so as to trigger the memory for those in the know. The All-Star Game similarly kind of boils down basketball to a nonstop highlight reel of dunks and flashy plays, with both teams operating as if the shot clock were six seconds rather than 24. (I suppose one might compare both to the all-in fests that characterize many televised poker shows, although there you still often get some variety in the pacing.)

I guess both programs were varieties of entertainment once-removed -- shows about shows, in a sense -- that served as reminders of the actual entertainment to which they referred without exactly providing the same.

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