Michael Hiltzik, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who pens the twice-weekly “Golden State” column for the Los Angeles Times, included this comment in his Jan. 26 column, “There Isn’t Enough Good Entertainment to Go Around,” regarding the recent merger between the WB and UPN networks.
The UPN and WB, which will be folded into a single television network, foundered on the reality that, just as a sports league’s aggressive expansion often dilutes the talent on its rosters, there simply isn’t enough compelling entertainment material to go around. (Alternatively, there hasn’t been enough savvy managerial talent to go around.) The same can be said for the animation business, which saw two of its most significant players, Disney and Pixar, walk down the aisle.
I’ve always thought there were similarities between the two “national pastimes.” To wit:
- Like the better teams, some TV shows remain at the top of their league (ratings) for several years, but eventually fade. (ER = the Atlanta Braves?)
- Like some of the better players, some stars remain with their team for many years (Gunsmoke‘s James Arness = Boston Red Sox’ Ted Williams?)
- Whether you consider it fair or not, UPN and WB, for the most part, are like the minor leagues. They may have some hot properties, both stars and shows, for a few seasons, but they can’t cut it at the Major league/network level.
- And some of those hot rookies and veteran players who find themselves liberated from the TV minors prove themselves to be flashes in the pan. (Freddie Prinze Jr., who portrayed a baseball player in Summer Catch = Joe Charboneau, who appeared in the role of “additional Knight” in the baseball movie, The Natural?)
- In both genres, some mediocre talents manage to hang, moving from team to team or show to show. Failed TV personalities, like failed managers, always seem to find a job somewhere.
- Both are considered in terms of seasons. Fans of both forms of entertainment look forward to the promise of the new season.
- Baseball has the World Series, in which (presumably) the best stars and most important games are highlighted; TV has “sweeps,” in which the best (guest) stars and most important episodes are highlighted.
- Network show up on baseball games, ostensibly to hump their shows which, by an amazing coincidence, just happen to appear on the network that airs those games; baseball players show up on network shows, ostensibly to show that they have talents beyond the playing field.
- Viewers of both baseball and TV believe they can do better than what they’re watching.