The 2005-06 television season will pick up after the holidays with CBS hogging three of the top five Nielsen rating slots with a few of its slew of crime procedurals.
This season has seen a surge of official online offerings for a wide variety of shows. Housewives aren't the only ones who are desperate – networks are desperate for younger viewers, viewers who are beginning to spend more time on the Internet than watching TV. So using the web more fully as a marketing tool is not only a logical step, it allows execs to feel clever by throwing around buzzwords like synergy and value-added.
Here's the top five shows so far this season, and their best online extras:
1. CSI (CBS)
The CSI site has the usual character and episode profiles, along with video clips, and adds a Handbook where you can learn more about tools, evidence, and procedures used by crime scene investigators. But for interactivity, the Clue Tracker lets you play detective at home while the show is airing. Gather clues about suspects, motives, and methods, answer skill-testing questions, participate in polls and compare your answers to the rest of the audience, and receive online clues and predict how useful they'll be in solving the case. You can play anonymously, but only registered users can use the chat function that lets you talk with other viewers. At the end, you're given a profile that rates your investigative skills.
It's a mildly inventive, logical connection between show and website, but it's not for everyone. Setting up the Shockwave-based game was a pain on my system – I couldn't get it to work at all in Firefox – but more importantly ... well, pick your complaint: my computer isn't in the same room as my television, I prefer to watch my favourite shows without distractions, and I don't watch CSI. Still, for those who don't suffer from the same objections, it could be a fun way to come as close as possible to being the next Gil Grissom or Catherine Willows, without all that messy blood.