It’s that time of year again. Christmas has passed and we’re on to the End of The Year lists in the last week before the New Year. It’s only natural that those of us who spend an exorbitant amount of our time watching the best (and worst) that television has to offer would take a moment to reflect on the past year on the boob tube – and to decide which networks were the winners and which ones were the losers.* In our humble opinions, the main networks and the cable networks are playing different ball games, so here’s part one: 2011 TV Scorecard: Major Network Edition**. Stay tuned for the cable edition tomorrow.
*To obtain the final score in the entertainment value, quality of writing, and ratings categories for each network, we assigned a numerical value to each original series from that network and then took the average of those score.
**This scorecard covers ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and CW.
Most Entertaining Network
In this category we scored series for their levels of fun, romance, jealousy, zaniness, suspense, mystery, shock and awe regardless of ratings or quality of writing and acting. Essentially, this category is all about good (and often embarassing) television fun.
The Major Culprits: Vampire Diaries, Secret Circle, Ringer, 90210
Outliers: H8tr (canceled), Hellcats, One Tree Hill
1. CW (6.6)
2. Fox (6.2)
3. CBS (5.7)
4. NBC (5.5)
5. ABC (5.4)
How in the world does the CW win anything? I was asking myself that question once I worked out each network’s score. I went back, double checked the math, and shrugged my shoulders when I realized that I hadn’t screwed up the math: the CW truly earned the most entertaining network award. This isn’t to say that other networks don’t provide fun or camp or mystery and suspense in droves, just that those ends are the CW’s only goals. They’ve cornered the market on easy-to-digest, over-the-top, embarrassingly fun television (H8ter of course detracted from this score). Some networks may accomplish great writing and high entertainment with series like New Girl or Parks and Recreation, but what puts the CW ahead is its ability to deliver salacious entertainment almost completely across the board. Anti-TV folks might call it an unhealthy addiction, we call it entertainment, pure and easy.
Network With The Best Writing
While great writing can often lead to fantastic entertainment, it doesn’t always lead to the easy, high entertainment value of a show like The Vampire Diaries. But we choose shows for very different reasons. Sometimes we want an easy gasp or chuckle (hello, The Big Bang Theory), but sometimes we want something a little more challenging. Sometimes we enjoy having to scratch our heads a bit before we finally get that reference on 30 Rock. And if you don’t agree with our scores here, keep in mind that reality shows count for zero points in the writing category. Sorry, Fox.
The Major Culprits: Parks and Recreation, Community, Friday Night Lights (series ended), 30 Rock
Outliers: Whitney, Outsourced (canceled), Free Agents (canceled), Chuck
1. NBC (4.1)
2. CBS (4.0)
3. FOX (3.8)
4. ABC (3.2)
5. CW (2.6)
While many of you may have forgotten that NBC even exists (just see our next category: ratings), the Peacock is still trucking. Sure, they fill lots of time (and actually gain a large chunk of their meager viewership) from reality shows like The Biggest Loser and America’s Got Talent and sure, they waste our time with throw-away series – like Outsourced or that short-lived summer series Love Bites or that series that recently got a full season order against most of our wishes, Whitney – they’ve got a few very heavy hitters in the writing department. Those heavy hitters aren’t always ratings winners, but you can’t deny the genius of critical darlings like Parks, Community and 30 Rock. I will concede, however, that if the network hadn’t carried the final season of Friday Night Lights, CBS probably would have snaked its way to this title, especially with ammunition like Person of Interest and The Good Wife.
This one’s pretty simple. The network with the highest ratings across the board wins the prize. There’s really no dispute here, folks. It is what it is – and I bet you can guess which network came out on top…
The Major Culprits: The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, Person of Interest, Criminal Minds, How I Met Your Mother
Outliers: How to Be a Gentleman (canceled), Big Brother, A Gifted Man, Rules of Engagement
1. CBS (10.9)
2. ABC (7.6)
3. FOX (6.5)
4. NBC (5)
5. CW (1.7)
There’s really not much to say here, but CBS is pummelling the competition. Even their lowest rated shows like the defunct How to Be a Gentleman and the reality show that could win a prize for being the most in need of euthanasia, Big Brother, best everything on the CW and even the top performers on NBC. Sorry folks, this one got ugly.