We watch... so you don't have to.

Last Week, All of Your Friends Jumped Off a Bridge...

It's not that I sit down each week, determined to chronicle the latest abuses perpetrated by NBC's promotions department. I do not have a thick three-ring binder labeled "Bad Things NBC Has Done This Week" sitting next to a stack of videotapes that offer incontrovertible proof of the Peacock Network's misdeeds. I am not keeping a list of NBC employees that I have vowed to bring to justice.

I leave that work to the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.

But NBC continues to assault the senses -- sight and sound, mostly, but also common sense -- with the promos for its crop of new shows.

"Last week, 20 million people tuned in for Ed," says NBC's ubiquitous, gravelly-voiced announcer. And you, Ol' Gravelly Voice seems to be implying, were not one of them.

It doesn't matter why you didn't watch. Hot date. Bowling League. Parent-teacher conference. Maybe you just didn't feel like watching TV that night.

Ol' Gravelly Voice doesn't care. 20 million other suckers could be bothered to watch our show. And you couldn't. What are you, some sort of communist? Do you derive some sort of sick pleasure out of this? Do you want our show to fail?

You think you're too good for Ed?

Well. It's an interesting way to drum up an audience for a new show, at least. And vaguely reminiscent of high school. "Everyone else watches our shows. Why don't you, you hopeless square?"

But here's a thought: if you want to get people to try a strange, unfamiliar program, why not give them a compelling reason to tune in? Watch Ed -- it's a good show. Watch Deadline -- you never know what form Oliver Platt's hair will take next. (Oops. Too late!) Watch The Michael Richards Show -- and marvel at the profound implications as time and space grind to a halt.

Sounds a hell of a lot more compelling than "Watch Ed -- because all the cool kids are doing it," huh?

Still, NBC's not the only network to try exploiting your natural instinct for bowing to the will of the masses when it comes to promoting its lineup. CBS also likes to trumpet its ratings to scare up interest in its shows -- even if it has to string together more qualifiers than the fine print on an off-shore medical school brochure.

Family Law, we have learned from CBS, is Monday night's highest-rated drama. That's an impressive achievement -- until you realize that, at the time this particular promo aired, there were only four dramas on Monday night. And one of them airs on the WB, now received in slightly more households than closed-circuit TV. But hey -- first place out of three is still something to be mighty proud of.

In a potato sack race. When you're eight.

Judging Amy does Family Law one better in the category monumentally unimpressive ratings achievements. The turgid Amy Brenneman show was the highest-rated new drama of all last season.

Bet they're probably green with envy about that over on the set of The West Wing. I mean, if there was any way they could just choose between being the highest-rated new drama or winning the Best Drama Emmy in your rookie season... well, they'd probably stick with the Emmy. But they'd yap about it a lot while they walked purposefully down a hallway first.

You have to feel sorry for other shows, though -- the ones near the bottom of the Nielsen barrel. What hope do they have of enjoying their very own network promo without the stellar ratings to justify a fallacious appeal to widespread popularity?

Never fear. As a public service to the lowly Diagnosis Murders and humble Two Guys & A Girls of the world, I offer these simple advertising blurbs. Just slap 'em on the air in between the ads for Right Guard and Budweiser, and watch the ratings soar.

  • Law & Order: SVU is the second-highest rated drama produced by Dick Wolf.
  • The Fugitive is the highest-rated new show to star a former Wings cast member.
  • Only one show starring a member of the Sheen family gets better ratings than Spin City.
  • JAG is the most watched drama by my parents.
  • The Trouble with Normal is the highest-rated sitcom on Friday nights in the 8:30 p.m. time slot on ABC's schedule.
  • Normal, Ohio is America's favorite sitcom with a gay protagonist not named "Will."
  • Last week, 20 million people did not watch FreakyLinks. Though there's no law preventing them from watching this week.

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