Who are those damned Nielsens anyway?
Everyone who has ever had their favorite TV show of all time ripped out from under them in the middle of the first season has heard about the Nielsens. The survival or demise of any show is supposedly based on the ratings of the so-called Nielsen Families, (although Robert says that the show "Law & Order" was kept alive at first because some mucky-muck at network HQ thought it was great, so it went on despite poor ratings. I guess it is doing ok now without artificial life support), but as far as I know, they are imaginary. Nielsens, I mean.
The evidence is clear. First of all, it is almost a given that if a show is really good, with some groundbreaking premise, good storytelling, special effects, etc., that ing, special effects, etc., that show will be a five episode wonder. Look at one of the coolest shows of all time, "Max Headroom!" Its only flaw was being born too early. If it were done today, all of us propeller-headed silicon jockeys would be burning up VHS tapes every week to get our greedy hands on the whole collection. It could have been bigger than Star Trek (It was a hell of a lot better than V-ger), and the translation to merchandising would have been a no-brainer. "The Max Headroom Maximum CDROM" adventure game, the MHR add-on for After Dark, the "MHR GPS/VR immersion helmet," the "Channel 23 video add in card with MHR non-linear editing software," as well as the action figures, the playsets, the T-shirts, mugs, monitor masks, telephone answering machine message tapes ("He-he-hellllllo-o-o-o, citizen! w-w-w-we're not not not home...."), and a lot of other stuff we could not, would not live without. But I digress...
Yes the great shows get axed while the crappy ones seem to be crafted to survive nuclear holocaust. I refuse to get trapped into more examples, suffice to say, I'm baffled. I'm baffled about these Nielsens. They supposedly rate shows by way of a box on their TV which detects what they watch and when. This box periodically uploads the data to some wonderful machine, which is probably housed in an abandoned NORAD bunker in Kansas somewhere, which tallies, analyzestallies, analyzes, and otherwise crunches the numbers to come out with a rating for every show on TV. These numbers are then waved in the face of Madison Avenue bottom-feeders who decide where to spend their Megabuck advertising budgets. But I challenge the net to come up with anyone anywhere who is or personally knows a Nielsen TV rater. This is no contest, there are no prizes. This is science. I will use the power of the net to root out an example proving the existance of a "Nielsen." Drop me Email if you really know (even third or fourth-hand) someone with a "magic box." Please don't invent anything, we're trying to find the truth.
You see, if these people are really evenly distributed amoung us, then someone would know one of them. But everyone I have ever asked has thought for a moment, then come back with something like, "You know, I don't know anyone with a Nielsen box either, and I've never even talked to anyone who did." Look, how many times have you been randomly selected to answer a few questions about a political race, a soap product, or a new hair replacement cream? I mean any old kind of survey. Everyone has, at least once or twice, right? If not, they at least know someone at work who got called (during dinner, of course!), to participate in some sort of data-gathering exercise. And If you subscribe to the theory that there are about t there are about six degrees of separation between any two people on the planet, then someone who also knows someone with a Nielsen box must know someone who knows someone who knows someone in your family . Assuming, of course that anyone has such a box. In the immortal words of Bob, the Guardian, "I don't think so!"
My friend Robert claims the Nielsens are really space aliens from the planet Nielos who have a high-gain dish aimed at Earth to pick up our programming. They also have bad taste. His theory says they have little chips implanted in the brains of network executives, which they activate several times a year, beaming down their choices. I think they have those chips implanted in the writers for ST V-ger, which they activate every week or so. In addition to effecting lame plots, they also have the ability to schedule re-runs of the lamest ones every other week. And they love to invent new particles and forms of energy, as well as beings made of same. For a while, they were enamoured with Kess (she is pretty hot for a 2 year old), but that phase has seemingly passed for now. Robert had another theory, that the Nielsens are actually living on Earth, but no one knows them because they never come out from in front of the TV, and don't interact with humans. We've decided that they can remain inside their houses indefinitely because they survive on junk mail...
The evolution o>The evolution of mankind
It all starts with an unusual affinity for the taste of envelope glue. The proto-post-modern human starts to really enjoy the minty, chalky taste of envelope and stamp adhesive so much, he starts sending out "Business Reply Envelopes" to every organization he can find, "just for the taste of it." He meets a woman through a mail-order club who shares his compulsion. Naturally their offspring, being surrounded by a flood of really neat junk mail, decide to start at an early age to hang out with mom & dad for the family evenings of bulk mailings. Eventually, they too find mates who think envelope glue is dandy. By the third generation, just licking is not enough. The Grandkids find they can enhance the flavor by nibbling the whole strip off the envelopes. Their children, not really understanding why, eat more and more of the wonderful third class bulk rate flyers which are freely delivered by pseudo-government agents. The Publisher's Clearing House magazine stamp sheets are a real gourmet dinner! Each generation becomes less dependent on normal food, eventually finding they can get their entire nutritional needs from junk mail. The samples of breakfast cereal, snacks, and hair care products provide additional vitamins and minerals. They send out only enough of the reply envelopes to ensure they will continue to receive their daily bounty. Each successive generatioccessive generation grows a bigger, wetter tongue, and a bigger, fatter butt, with gradually atrophying legs, arms and minds.
Fast forward to the present. Our creatures are no longer sentient bipeds. They have evolved for maximum saliva generation and surface area for stamp licking. These slug-like "tongue creatures" exist entirely on junk mail. They must live their pathetic lives indoors to prevent their mucous layer from drying out. But that's OK. The only thing they really need to do all day is write scripts for Star Trek-Voyager and The Fresh Prince, and then turn on their TV (with the Nielsen Box attached) to catch up on the latest from CBS...
Copyright 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 by John M. Meyer. All rights reserved. The Alien Mind is not associated with any earthly company or its products.
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