Sunday, July 31, 2005

Crowded Houses

In your private universe, which TV shows pack the people into your living room? Some shows possess something so strong that they attract everyone to the tube, while other shows keep people locked out.

It's only natural that events like the Super Bowl attract crowds. And the children better be home soon to watch popular family-oriented specials like "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" and "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas." (The 2005 Super Bowl attracted 1.91 viewers per household. "Charlie Brown" and "The Grinch" packed 1.85 and 1.80 viewers per household, respectively, on November 11, 2004.)

But don't dream it's over...the story is just beginning. What's your first instinct about regularly-scheduled TV series that attracted large living room crowds during the regular 2004-2005 TV season?

During the regular season (September 20, 2004 through May 29, 2005) in the world where you live, only nine series on primetime network TV averaged at least 1.50 viewers per household:

1.55 viewers per watching household: "American Idol"
1.54: "Surivor" & "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" & "American Dad"
1.53: "America's Funniest Home Videos"
1.51: "Family Guy" & "The Simpsons"
1.50: "24" & "Fear Factor"

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

Did you ever wonder about neighbors in TV Land? You know. TV Land. The place where series take place...not necessarily where they're filmed.

Did you know that Conrad Bloom and Jerry Seinfeld lived in the same neighborhood? You can find this connection and many others by touring New York City, Southern California, and the rest of the United States.

TV addresses were approximated and converted into nine-digit zip codes, which were then converted into coordinates (latitude and longitude). Symbols and labels at these coordinates were overlayed onto GoogleMaps using the tools at

These maps will be periodically updated with even more locations.

Taking Down the Test Pattern

Thank you. Thank you. You're very kind. What a great audience.

We have a really great show for you. (Is there any other kind?)

No. It's true. Promise. Just a few catches though.

We have no guests. No musical act. No comedian. Sheesh. We don't even have a desk. (And we definitely don't have a safety net.) What kind of *** talk show is this, anyways?

The blog is Trivial TV and I'm your host, Dr. TV.

First a little bit about me, your host. I'm writing a book called, what else, but "Trivial TV." It's been a two-year, part-time project that started with a bet about "girls club." (The book is about 70% complete, but the last 30% should go more quickly.) I'm not involved in the TV industry in any way. I have no ties to any entertainment company. I have no book deal. I have no ties to any publishing house. And, yes, I really do have a PhD.

"Trivial TV" is a trivia book about television, as you'd expect. But it's much more than just that. There are multiple layers of trivia throughout the book.

First Layer: Each set of facing pages in the book is dedicated to a different TV Shorty. What's a Shorty? A Shorty is a short-lived TV series. There is no standard definition, but I define a Shorty as any series that the network intended to show at least four times but aired three or fewer times. (I'll dedicate a subsequent entry about why I defined a TV Shorty this way.) As you page through the book, you'll find an alphabetical list of ~100 Shorties from "AFP: American Fighter Pilot" to "You're the One." The oldest Shorty on the list, "Hold It Please," premiered on May 8, 1949. The most recent Shorty, as of this posting, is "The Princes of Malibu," which premiered about three weeks ago on July 10, 2005. The list includes series that aired during primetime, late night and daytime, including Saturday mornings. The list also includes network and cable series.

At its highest level, the book answers the trivia question: "What are the names of all Shorties in U.S. TV history?"

Second Layer (Part 1): The left facing page for each series is split into three sections. The top third of the page has all the critical information about the show, including concept/pitch, premiere data and other standard info. The bottom third of the page is a section called (Dis)Honors since most of the shows have been nominated for awards--both good and bad. The middle third of the page is a section called Commercial Break. I take that opportunity to tell a story about the series, about the actors in the series or about the past, present or history of television that is somehow related to the series.

Second Layer (Part 2): The right facing page for each series includes a trivia question somehow related to the series. Sometimes, the trivia question is a matching exercise, such as matching a sitmom with her maiden name for a list of 12 sitmoms (on the page for "Aliens in the Family"). Other times, the trivia is a list, such as the history of the f-word on US TV (on the page for "Danny" which has an episode called "Who Gives a Truck"). Each piece of trivia is preceded by text that identifies the relationship and provides additional information or commentary.

Third Layer: The headlines for the Commercial Break on the left facing page and the trivia on the right facing page are all derived from proverbs, saying and idioms.

Fourth Layer: The Commercial Breaks often have hidden trivia. For instance, in the story for "My Guide to Becoming a Rock Star," I use titles of Michael De Barres songs in the text. (Michael De Barres played the father in the series.)

That was a long intro, but now it will be easier to explain what this blog is about.

Obviously, the blog will include TV trivia. But that's not all.

The Commercial Breaks on the left facing page have forced me to sit down and think about the medium from a naive outsider's perspective. I've been able to ask "What if?" and "Why not?" and "How?" and "Why?" an awful lot. I've thought about a lot of trivial things about TV. Business. Technology. Marketing. Regulation.

And that's why Trivial TV is more than just TV trivia. It's everything TV.

I'll post new entries about twice a week. More frequently in the first few weeks. And I'll post items that won't appear in the book, unless I'm linking to a sample page from the book. (One exception: some of the introduction will be included in both places.) This endeavor won't be one of those turn-my-blog-into-a-book deals. In this case the book came before the blog.

So join us again tomorrow (or the next day or maybe the day after that). Our guests will...uh-oh....still no guests? Maybe this is what "Jimmy Kimmel Live" felt like at the beginning...