Culture Clips: A TV Wasteland?

You wouldn’t necessarily know it here in Colorado, but we’re creeping up on summer, a time when lots of scripted television shows go into hibernation and the networks roll out their cheesiest reality shows. Who’s up for Who Wants to Be a Battlebots Bachelor? Anyone?

But before America’s TV execs dozed off for the season, they unveiled just what—and what won’t—be on television come fall.

Many execs hope that superheroes, particularly Marvel superheroes, will save their falling bottom lines. In addition to Netflix’s Daredevil/Jessica Jones/Nick Cage/Iron Fist teamup of The Defenders this August, ABC will bring Inhumans to the screen in September. The Gifted—focusing on teens with special abilities and connected to Marvel’s X-Men—will show up on NBC this fall, too.

Oh, and then there’s this: Deadpool—that foul-mouthed, super-salacious superhero that made an R-rated big-screen splash last year—is coming to FXX in 2018. It’ll be an animated show, and FXX already has a history making raunchy adult cartoons.

The tube’s ongoing fascination with all things old continues unabated as well. NBC will re-introduce Will & Grace, the first hit sitcom to feature gay protagonists and which last aired in 2006. The X-Files returns for a second season of its second run. And ABC recently announced that it’ll bring back the 1990s smash Roseanne for an eight-episode run in 2018. No word as to whether the show’s star, Roseanne Barr, will be singing the national anthem.

And as we mentioned last week, ABC will also be bringing back American Idol, too—the granddaddy of all modern singing reality shows. Fox cancelled the show two years ago due to sagging ratings. But since then, ratings for pretty much everything has sunk like, well, an old analog TV in a lake: The same numbers that got Idol canned two years ago look pretty snazzy today. As John Koblin for The New York Times writes, “The gap between a hit and a dud is narrowing by the minute.” Ratings, more than ever, are everything.

Well, except in the case of ABC’s Last Man Standing. The network cancelled the show after six seasons despite its relatively strong ratings. Many fans suspect that the show might’ve been axed because its star, Tim Allen, is an outspoken conservative, and that his show reflects those values. Allen himself said on Twitter that he was “stunned and blindsided by the network I called home for the last six years,” and fans launched a petition to save the show, compiling more than 100,000 signatures (and counting). ABC exec Channing Dungey defended the decision, pointing out that the network cancelled a number of left-leaning shows, too, and Last Man was the odd man out when ABC decided “not to continue with comedies on Fridays.”

As for television shows you can watch right now … well, caution is advised. Starz’s American Gods—already arguably the most explicit show on television—just featured “the most graphic gay sex scene there has ever been on TV,” according to The Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon. “And it happened to be between two men who are Muslim.”

It wouldn’t be a Culture Clips blog lately without some sort of mention of 13 Reasons Why. After the show was renewed for a second season (as we reported last week), some school districts temporarily pulled the book from its shelves. Meanwhile, a school in Michigan has launched a very personal suicide prevention program called 13 Reasons Why Not.

Among the problems 13 Reasons spotlights is bullying—an issue that painfully hit home in one Ohio community when an 8-year-old killed himself two days after he was thrown against a wall at school and knocked unconscious. Speaking of bullying, new research also suggests that being bullied in early adolescence increases the risk of depression and substance abuse later on.

There’s a bit of a downside to recent studies showing encouraging dips in teens’ drinking and smoking rates. Even though teens aren’t drinking as widely or as often as they used to, researchers discovered that teens who do drink are more likely to binge drink—consuming four or five alcoholic beverages in   two hours or less. In fact, 50% of those binge drinkers quaffed eight or more drinks in a row.

What’s the next big thing? It could be virtual or augmented reality, akin to what we saw with the Pokémon Go phenomenon. But some are sounding a warning about the technology—including one of the folks behind Pokémon Go. “I’m afraid [virtual reality] can be too good, in the sense of being an experience that people want to spend a huge amount of time in,” John Hanke, CEO of Niantic, said. “I mean I already have concerns about my kids playing too much Minecraft, and that’s a wonderful game.”

Let’s wrap this Culture Clips blog by returning to the world of television—and highlighting one old show that’ll certainly not be coming back: Friends. One of the stars, Jennifer Aniston, says the show wouldn’t work today. “If Friends was created today, you would have a coffee shop full of people that were just staring into iPhones,” she said on iHeartRadio’s Thrive Global Podcast. “There would be no actual episodes or conversations.”

The theme song’s chorus would have to change, too: I’ll be there for you … on Twitter or Instagram or something.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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