Buzz. It seems like the quintessential tool for a successful television show these days. Of course, plenty of shows manage to have huge success without ever achieving the highly sought after buzz of other shows. But, why do certain shows attain buzz status and others never do? It's an interesting question without a clear answer, but I thought we could try to dissect the issue and come up with some probable conclusions as to why some shows, even low rated shows, generate huge amounts of buzz.
So, what is buzz anyway? It's the intangible factor that moves shows and their stars onto the television hot list. Buzz shows are the ones you keep hearing about, the ones you think everyone must be watching. A great example can be seen on Sunday nights at 8 p.m. Buzz show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition goes head-to-head with crime procedural Cold Case. Which do you think wins? Well, if you go strictly by who gets more buzz, then it would seem that Extreme Makeover wins by a mile, but the ratings show a tight race between the two shows last season. Some weeks Extreme Makeover came out on top, and others it was Cold Case. So, why do certain shows get more buzz? There seems to be several reasons, and they have to do with how the show generates buzz. Some shows are just critical darlings. Critics peg them from the moment they see the pilot over the summer, and they never let up on them. Arrested Development has been a critical darling from the beginning, even winning the Emmy for best comedy last year, but it has not developed a significant audience (its new Monday night timeslot didn't help either. The show managed only 4.6 million viewers the other night). Despite the lack of viewers, the show remains a buzz show because critics keep buzzing about it. Some shows achieve buzz status because they have watercooler appeal. These shows are constantly talked about at work "over the watercooler" or among friends creating an illusion that everyone is watching them, so you must be missing out if you aren't. Desperate Housewives quickly became a buzz show after it made rounds around many watercoolers. It seems the final way to generate buzz is to push the envelope and the broadcast standards as far as you can. Nip/Tuck has been considered "controversial" since it premiered, and it hasn't let up as witnessed by last night's premiere ( it created a lot of buzz before it aired because of a gratuitous sex scene involving three participants). The show's shock factor has kept it in buzz circles. Shows that tow the line with strong episodes, little critical acknowledgement, and lack of watercooler appeal seem to never achieve the coveted buzz status, but these shows also seem to do just fine without it.
Well, Law & Order: SVU started off with a bang last night! It was nice to see Stabler (Christopher Meloni) get an episode where he had to play it cool for once. Knowing his track record for getting extremely angry with sex offenders, it must have been difficult for him to go undercover as one. The lingering question from the episode is whether or not Stabler coerced the newly released sex offender into committing a sex crime again just so they could re-arrest him. The detectives knew his M.O. from his old rapes, so they bought a van like he used to use to rape the women he grabbed off the street, and they even sent a young-looking cop in as a decoy. Did the Special Victims Unit tempt guest star Robert Patrick's character too much and drive him to almost rape again? Or was it only a matter of time anyway, and this way the detectives caught him before he did it again? Was he responsible for the rape in the beginning of the episode? Be sure to leave a comment with your thoughts on the episode.
About Last Night... CBS won the 8 o'clock hour with NCIS, followed by ABC's According to Jim and the first half hour of the final dance-off for Dancing With the Stars. NBC landed in third with The Biggest Loser. Fox's Bones took a hit and dropped to fourth, followed by the WB's Gilmore Girls. At 9 p.m., Fox moved into the lead with House, followed by the remainder of Dancing with the Stars, and NBC landed in third with its combination of My Name is Earl and The Office (BUT, My Name is Earl won the timeslot from 9-9:30, beating Fox and ABC). NBC easily won the final hour with the night's highest rated program Law & Order: SVU. CBS came in second with the finale of Rock Star: INXS, followed by ABC's Wife Swap. For more information on last night's ratings, visit zap2it.
Premiering Tonight!!! ABC roles out its much anticipated second season premiere of Lost, followed by the debut of the supernatural drama Invasion. Over at NBC, it's the debut of the Martha Stewart version of The Apprentice, followed by the debut of the Jerry Bruckheimer pentagon thriller E-Ring, and the night ends with the 16th season premiere of Law & Order. CBS premieres comedies Still Standing and Yes Dear tonight. Finally, UPN premieres its successful reality competition America's Next Top Model with Tyra Banks and the gang.
*It looks like more episodes are what the doctor ordered for Fox's House. The network decided to extend the show's 22-episode season by two, bringing the total up to 24 episodes this year. The premiere's 15.9 million viewers and creator David Shore's Emmy win for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series prompted Fox to order the bonus episodes.
*Keeping with Fox, fans of 24 will have to wait an extra week to catch the special two-night four-hour premiere. The show will open its fifth season on Sunday, January 15th with a two-hour episode, followed by another two-hour episode the next night. The second night's episode will be the show's 100th. The series will once again continue through its weekly episodes uninterrupted until the finale. For more information of the premiere and the fifth season, visit The Futon Critic.
*NBC plans to make a weekly series out the high school football film Friday Night Lights per Variety. The network has put the show on the fast track, and hopes to have it ready for Fall 2006 to coincide with its new NFL coverage package. The film's writer/director Peter Berg plans to write and produce the pilot, which will be set in present day. The popular sports film starred Billy Bob Thornton as a high school football coach in small-town Texas in the 1980s. The peacock network has not made a formal pilot commitment to the series yet, but it is very interested according to NBC Universal Television Studio President Angela Bromstad.
*And finally, it's Nielsen Wednesday. CBS reclaimed the ratings throne last week led by its 57th Annual Emmy Awards telecast (#2) and the premiere of Survivor (#3). The eye network landed six of the top ten programs with a mix of CSI (#6, #8), NFL National Postgame coverage (#7), and comedy Two And a Half Men (#9). Fox and ABC split second place, but Fox grabbed the most viewers. For the full top 20 programs, visit USA Today.
That's all for today. Be sure to tune in tomorrow for a jam-packed edition as we go down the mysterious hatch on Lost and discuss the powerful forces behind the Invasion. Plus, all the latest television news.