Culture

MeTV and America's Big Political Crossover: From Anderson Cooper to 'Meathead'?

MeTV logo. Screenshot from YouTube clip.

Perusal of an article about how MeTV mogul Neal Sabin had ordered the scrubbing of certain episodes from his classic television network revealed a startling fact. MeTV is the fifth-most watched cable network in America, following (in descending order) Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, and the home improvement/real estate nexus HGTV.

There has to be some synergy going on here. After watching hour upon hour of mostly terrible news on the cables, could it be that many of those same viewers are retreating to DIY and dream homes, and flocking in droves to traditionally oriented programming that offers solace from unrelentingly negative contemporary news cycles?

By droves, with MeTV, we’re talking 27 million viewers a week. That’s more than enough to swing a national election.

What brought the article to the surface of a classic television search was the fact that some ancient (in television time) installments of beloved series have been deemed offensively politically incorrect. Sabin acted to rectify the situation. It seems that on some occasions, The Beverly Hillbillies and The Monkees scripts were less than tolerant in their treatment of Asian stereotypes. Worse, Fred Flintstone was heard to utter the term “towelhead” in reference to “two Arabs who showed up in Bedrock.”  That’s just not kosher.

Another action taken by Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting was to blur the image of a Confederate flag on the wall in—wait for it—Richie Cunningham’s Happy Days bedroom. This Black Lives Matter summer, that’s grounds for a burn-down.

Here’s a quote from the linked article:

“We’re being responsible, not reactionary,” explained Neal Sabin, vice chairman of Weigel Broadcasting and the driving force behind the network he created in 2008. “I’m not a fan of ‘cancel culture,’ but there are certain episodes and certain things we’re taking out and other things we’re leaving in. It’s an ongoing process.”

Weigel’s episodic scrub-down aside, it seems quite clear looking at the ratings that there must be significant crossover between classic TV shows and cable news. It is quite plausible that after getting the lowdown from Shannon Bream, Rachel Maddow, and Alisyn Camerota, broadcast viewers are wearily seeking out the relative peace and quiet of The Rifleman, Adam-12, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. When you consider the absolute rubbish that passes for network entertainment, and much of the politically correct streaming crapola, it likely comes as no surprise that millions of people, mostly older folks, are flocking to the top of Walton’s Mountain.

After Hannity’s nightly breakdown of the Democratic Socialist horror show, Svengoolie’s spook-house seems like a veritable oasis of sanity.

It must be acknowledged that but for a demographically inconsequential number of curious young people, most of the folks tuning in to MeTV and other classic television stations are older. Commercials for Ozempic, life insurance divestment, and devices for people in danger of falling and then not being able to get back up tell the tale. No matter, a large segment of the population is voting with their clickers for Fonzie’s shark jump, Opie Taylor’s imaginary friend “Mr. McBeevee,” and the Rifleman episode where Lucas McCain awakes with a rattlesnake nestled under his trail blanket.

These folks vote in elections too.

Republicans and conservatives can only hope that the empirically argued, winning, winning, winning Perry Mason contingent wins out over All in The Family’s liberal “Meathead” crew. That Gomer Pyle USMC’s un-outed gay private Jim Nabors has more clout than Anderson Cooper and the reprehensible Don Lemon combined.

Again, it is all about the demos. Young people have options, and they don’t sit around watching a lot of television. Older folks are more likely to tune in for the umpteenth time to watch a 1970 Johnny Cash Christmas Special.

Led by Sean Hannity, in the month of August 2020 Fox News averaged 3.3 million viewers in primetime each night, with MSNBC in second place with 2.2 million. Mathematically extrapolated over 30 days, that means Fox News attracted almost 100 million sets of eyeballs in August, and the progressives over at Conspiracy Television almost 66 million. To be sure, the majority of those eyeballs are repeat customers. But how many of these millions came over from Wagon Train?

How many will flock back to The Andy Griffith Show when the alarming, often dispiriting, but wholly necessary cable news prime times end? At the reported 27 million a week, that means approximately 108 million MeTV fans show up for “Memorable Entertainment Television” in a given month.

These numbers are too close, too synergistic to be coincidental.

While violent bought-and-paid-for agitators riot in the streets, the youthful and radical wing running the Democratic Party pushes Joe Biden farther left, and a hate-obsessed mainstream media methodically destroys forever any future claim to credibility, it is possible that the 2020 election will be decided by a plurality of voters who will switch to a rerun of The Twilight Zone when it becomes clear there will be no clear winner on election night.

Author’s Note: I had this humor piece ready to go on Thursday night, before news about President Trump’s COVID diagnosis was announced. I am praying not only for President Trump and first lady Melania’s full recovery, but also that Mr. Trump is reelected on November 3.

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Mark Ellis is the author of A Death on the Horizon, a finalist in the 14th annual National Indie Excellence Awards in the category of General Fiction. Follow Mark on Twitter.