Waiting patiently for some good TV shows

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, January 28, 2016

Every few weeks I give a riding lesson to a student who resides in … wait for it … Papua New Guinea!

I have to say that while I utterly abhor all the evil that can and does lurk over the Internet, when I experience the good it can do, from helping locate a lost dog on Facebook, to raising funds for sick children, to illustrating the injustices of governments, it still staggers me. And when Catherine sends me video of her ride on her once feral, island pony and apologizes for wearing a loose, baggy top as it makes it more difficult for me to comment on her position, she explains that it is rather frowned upon to wear form fitting polo shirts and riding breeches in her culture.

Watching the uploaded videos she sends me to chart her progress, I see her school her pony in an open, grassy field (no elegant riding academies with groomed-surfaced arenas) set against the backdrop of green and lush mountains. I feel as if I’m physically standing right there as I type my comments, “A little less inside hand and try riding her a bit more forward and over her back…” In fact, when the little grey mare begins to fall into her choppy, sewing machine trot, I catch myself clucking aloud.

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It’s a bit Pollyanna, I know, to muse about the potential of good the Internet could do if everyone thought the same way. But people don’t, and that’s that.

The same thing can be said about Hollywood making such graphic, violent, films. But it’s all supply and demand, isn’t it? When something disgusting (and when I say, ‘disgusting,’ I mean the acting and the script) like “50 Shades of Grey” is released and reaps gazillions, good luck to all the charming little ‘Quartets’ ever getting made.

Never heard of “Quartet”? That’s exactly my point. Produced by Dustin Hoffman in 2012 with a stellar, British cast, including Downton’s Dame Maggie Smith, it is funny and poignant, but nothing explodes and no woman’s dinners are hanging out and waving to all and sundry, so more than likely, it was never even given the advertising budget for you to hear about it.

Those of us with, say, mortgages and a bit of lower back pain, have a lot more power than we give ourselves credit for. I think that’s why television has suddenly gotten much better with more well-written and acted dramas and series.

Forever, the bait was thrown for that holy grail of viewership: the 18- to 24-year-olds. Why? Because at that age, young people aren’t considered ‘brand loyal’ and are far more likely to be swayed by products in commercials. Seriously, that’s the whole thinking: “Get them drinking Coke at 18 and they’ll never switch to Pepsi, ever!”

Heck, I’ve always just bought what was on sale.

But I’ve got news for my old town: 18- to 24-year-olds aren’t watching network television, anymore, you Muldoons! They’re streaming everything! They’re playing video games while downloading music and movies. That’s why the current number one hit, “The Walking Dead,” pulls 12 to 16 million viewers compared to when “Seinfeld” was a hit with 30 million viewers, well before any online competition.

So the networks and advertisers, with horror, have realized that millennials don’t want to eat at McDonald’s or shop at Walmart. Many are renting with no plans to buy a home or even a car. They are embracing organic food, free-range livestock, bicycles and if they do take out a mortgage, it’s for a ‘tiny house.’ They are conscious of their carbon footprint and are too savvy to be taken in by slick commercials featuring hipsters with beards and ‘man buns.’ Seriously, when you watch TV tonight, count how many men in each commercial sport beards. Told ya.

And this is why the rest of us are getting a second look by studios out west. There’s an idea percolating: “Say, I wonder if the baby boomers have any disposable income? Maybe we need to start producing stuff for them?” This is why quality series like “Parenthood” (sadly axed, recently) were produced and look for more of them in the future.

I’m patient. I can wait. In the meantime, my television is off. I’d rather visit Papua New Guinea.