Friday, May 07, 2004

Adios Amigos...

"Can I tell you something, honestly?" Jon Stewart said on The Daily Show last night. "I never watched that show -- and I'm sick of it."

I've probably watched a dozen or so episodes of Friends. It seemed funny enough, but I never really got pulled into the will-they, won't-they, will-they-again antics of Ross and Rachel.

What I've gleaned from analysing the final show's ratings today, however, (for work, not pleasure) is that network television's influence's declines apace.

Back in 1983, when cable television was still shiny and new, M*A*S*H's final episode pulled in 105 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. Ten year later, Cheers' last call was watched by 80.4 million people. Five year after that, in 1998, Seinfeld's final bow was watched by 76.2 million viewers.

In comparison, despite the feverish hype, Friends brought in a meagre 51.1 million viewers in the United States for its finale. Blame the usual suspects: Cable! Digital cable! Satellite dishes! The Internet!

Will there ever be a television show with even Friends' amount of cultural influence ever again? Has our culture become permanently fragmented? Is that a bad thing? Will Joey's spin-off flop?

Only one of these questions can been answered definitively.

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