As of this column, news services have noted that CNN’s “Larry King Live” (or, as many people now call it, “Weekend at Bernie’s”) has fallen to fourth among television news shows, even trailing something featuring Rachel Maddow on MSNBC.
In the entertainment section, “Dancing With the Stars” is drawing its largest audience in the history of the show, possibly because everyone at home is watching Kate Gosselin and secretly hoping something heavy falls on her. “American Idol,” say the ratings gurus, is lagging.
Which brings me to the point of this column (congratulations if you stayed with it this long): Who cares?
Does it matter to anyone, other than TV executives and advertising directors, what the ratings are for individual TV shows? Does it affect how you feel about those shows at all?
During the halcyon days of the rivalry between Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly (a self-parody in every respect) and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann (ditto), both of them constantly made reference to the ratings, even to the point of arguing about which one was winning on a weekly basis.
Did it matter, though, to the people who watched those shows? If you watched O’Reilly and liked O’Reilly, why would you even care about his TV rating? The only TV rating that matters to you is the one in your house, right?
To use a more personal example, I enjoy watching sports. I like the World Series. And the NBA Finals. And the NCAA Tournament and the college bowl games and the Super Bowl.
I like those things because I like them, not because I think anyone else likes them. And so I don’t care if this year’s NBA Finals is “the highest-rated NBA Finals in 20 years” (as the ’08 Celtics-Lakers finals were) or “the lowest-rated NBA Finals ever” (the ’07 Cavs-Spurs Finals drew that ignominious distinction).
I don’t care. I like watching sports. Why would it matter to me if anyone else is watching what I’m watching?
The whole thing reminds me of the old Jerry Seinfeld routine about McDonald’s. The number of hamburgers sold continues to grow.
“’Forty million … billion … tillion.’ … Um, that’s nice. … I guess I’ll have … one.”
Whether it’s food or any other form of entertainment, I’m guessing you feel the same way. You like the things you like, and whether anyone else likes it is immaterial.
And so, no matter what Tiger Woods or anyone else does this weekend at the Masters, I can promise you I’ll be sitting in front of the TV on Sunday. Ratings, after all, can’t spoil tradition.