Video games now command more viewer-minutes than many prime-time television shows. Clearly, many of us are choosing to play games or surf the net rather than watch whatever the networks dole out to us each season.
Still, lots of people watch network television--25 million tuned into this week's episode of ABC's Dancing with the Stars, for example--and companies still pump billions into prime-time advertising.
So what would happen if gamers decided which shows should be on television? What if the generation that grew up playing Mario on the NES were in charge? What would that season look like? Probably a lot like the one on TV right now.
The kids who munched mushrooms now write and produce television shows, many of which bear an unmistakable video game sensibility (and comic book panache). Currently on American TV, it's all about geeks with special powers. It began last season with Heroes and its ensemble of characters who "thought they were like everyone else...until they realized they have incredible abilities." Notably, the most popular character was the nerd of the bunch, Hiro Nakamura.
This season brings us a computer whiz with the world's greatest spy secrets embedded in his brain (NBC's Chuck); a video game playing slacker who lives with his parents and harvests souls for Satan (CW's Reaper); a "forensic fairy tale" focusing on Ned, a pie-maker with the mysterious power to bring the dead back to life (ABC's Pushing Daisies); a San Francisco reporter who involuntarily travels through time (NBC's Journeyman); and a bartender with experimental medical implants who develops superhuman abilities (NBC's Bionic Woman). Two other new shows, CBS's Big Bang Theory and CW's Aliens in America feature central characters who lack super powers but qualify as grade-A geeks.
Then there's the unstoppable force known as Judd Apatow (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Superbad) who made the leap to Hollywood after establishing his nerd-cred as writer and producer of television's first foray into geekdom, the highly regarded but seldom watched Freaks and Geeks (featuring a young Seth Rogen, NBC, 1999-2000).
Apparently, the crazy pendulum that dictates network programming has swung away from reality shows and toward scripted programming (22 of 28 new series use scripts). Somebody has to write these shows, so why not gamers?
I may have to start watching television again...after The Orange Box, of course.