Noel's insightful essay on ESPN, sparked by the release of a lengthy oral history of the network, appeared today on the A.V. Club and has precipitated quite a bit of thoughtful commentary. Here in middle age we are often astounded to look back and see what pieces of media used to feel fresh, exciting, and indispensable to our lives. Did we leave them behind, or did they leave us?
I think about this every time I see a promo for Desperate Housewives on ABC and find myself astonished that the show is still on the air. During its first couple of seasons we watched it religiously -- everyone who wanted to be part of the cultural conversation did. And then the cultural conversation moved on, and yet the show somehow kept going, sustained by a demographic who aren't a part of that conversation. It feels like a coelacanth when you run across it -- a living fossil.
SportsCenter is like this, too. Time was, youngsters, when SportsCenter was appointment television. It was the only place on the dial where you could get the sheer volume and breadth of highlights, delivered with panache. Now the show not only seems to be merely a parody of the genre it spawned, but also appears to be going out of its way to actively alienate me and people like me, with little effort expended to actually comment on the highlights and as many tired catchphrases and empty panels of experts spouting meaningless opinion as they can pack into their hour.
Have these shows and their networks changed, or have I? Is my distaste for their style a function of getting older and leaving the target demo, or are the shows the ones that survived too long, drew the wrong lessons from the prevailing trends, got complacent and synergistic, and stopped caring about the people who forgot them or grew to despise them -- people like me?