Ahh, May...the dying days of spring gently carrying us into the beckoning arms of summer and three or so months of lethargy before we reap the harvest of what we planted what seems like only yesterday...
Yes, friends, it can mean only one thing-- May sweeps are upon us.
And that means the Big Four broadcast networks are on their semi-annual prowl to nurture their more hearty offspring and kill their weaker children in order to appease the Lords of Advertising. In times past, it often seemed a brutal, albeit necessary, ritual of electronic life. Some series were just born weak and some had grown old and irrelevant. But a balance was maintained.
This year, it's more akin to the decline and fall of any given empire, replete with inbreeding and even cannibalism. If Law and Order is flailing, bring in Michael Imperioli, dress him in cop's clothing but keep his Sopranos persona intact, and call it a "groundbreaking" performance. If House needs a boost to score in the ratings, stretch a mundane episode over two nights, have the second part be the lead-in to a ho-hum boot episode of American Idol and hail it as an "event" (and then top off the entire mess with the utterly asinine Unan1mous). And what better way to drag out the impending demise of Will & Grace than to bring back Bernadette Peters, Kevin Bacon, Harry Connick, Jr.and whatever celebs aren't busy that week and put them in bit roles?
In short, the networks are doing what decaying empires have always done --serve up bread and circuses to the populace in lieu of substance. And we, awash in fear and loathing of the bogeymen that never actually storm our cultural gates but might at any given moment, lap it up. We make American Idol the rating juggernaut it is because we've been duped into believing that we can make or break the next singing sensation, that we, by god, are going to decide the path culture will follow.