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Rating today’s TV offerings

January 23, 2014
Joyce Schenk , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

I realize I'm admitting my age when I say I recall those long-ago days when there was no television.

I'm sure young folks would gasp at the thought, but we were perfectly content to be entertained by radio. And, without a big screen set dominating every room, we spent far more time outside enjoying nature or inside, enjoying the family.

When I was about 12, we welcomed our first TV. It was a massive Raytheon with a small round screen. The screen shape had the irritating effect of cutting off the corners of each picture, sometimes eliminating a key component of the story.

At the time, there were very few choices for viewing so with the available programming spotty at best, we often found ourselves simply watching the test pattern.

Through the years, our TVs became larger in screen and smaller in body, the latest one a flat-screen set that takes up very little space.

These days, the offerings on TV are such a mixed bag. I've often wondered how the people in the know come up with ratings. I recently learned that the scale of evaluation is the work of the Nielsen Company. Established in 1950, the company is the leader in media research, which includes radio and the Internet in addition to TV.

Last month, we were surprised when the Nielsen folks chose our family to be part of their national television rating system.

Along with a TV diary, the company sent us a folder explaining that they "carefully select a sample of homes in the community to represent the entire TV audience."

With our quirky viewing habits, I suspect we're not really representative of the normal family. Still, it was interesting to participate and make our voices heard for the countless viewers out there who, like us, have a love/hate relationship with TV's window on the world.

The programs we most often watch are those that give us just that, a window on the world. Whether local, state or national, we're always interested in the latest news. For that reason, our viewing day begins with the Today Show on NBC and includes news programs throughout the day, as well as the evening news with Brian Williams.

It's all the programming offered between the news shows that we find less than satisfying. For that reason, our log showed that while others were viewing "The Bachelor," we were watching timeless reruns of "The Cosby Show."

And, while crowds of fans tuned into "Duck Dynasty," we had our set on "Pawn Stars."

"The Biggest Loser" was bypassed for revisits to Andy Griffith's Mayberry. Watching Andy, Barney, Opie and Aunt Bea in that slow-paced small town setting is always enjoyable. Though we've seen these same episodes for years, they never seem to age.

So, when we returned our TV viewing diary to the Nielsen folks, I suspect our records weren't very helpful in rating today's television offerings.

The things being shown these days on the major channels sometimes make us long for those old test patterns.

The late David Frost was right when he said, "Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn't have in your home."



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