Poll: Most Americans say TV is getting worse
EmptyNEW YORK -- Terrie Williams doesn't know anything about what's coming up in this fall's new television season. And she's fine with that.
Williams, a mother of four from Richmond Park, Ill., is among the 62% of Americans who say that TV programs are getting worse, according to a poll by The Associated Press and AOL Television. Only 22% said they are getting better.
"They didn't curse on TV like they do now," said Williams, 38. "My daughter is 19 and I am still uncomfortable watching things with her. It's all about sex, sex, sex."
TV networks seem more interested in separating people to watch different sets around the house instead of bringing families together, said Williams, who has fond memories of watching "The Waltons" long ago.
The likelihood of people believing TV is getting worse increases with age, the poll found. Nearly three-quarters of people aged 65 and over believe that -- not surprising with most networks relentlessly chasing the youthful demographic that advertisers pay a premium to reach.
Television historian Tim Brooks cautioned that there may be a "good old days" effect at work in those poll results -- people who give a rosy tint to the past. Many critics believe that because there are so many channels now, there are a lot more good things to choose from.
"It's indicative of the love affair that people have with television," said Brooks, a Lifetime executive. "As with the people you're closest to, you're always complaining. Complaining in a loving way, of course."
That doesn't mean networks should dismiss these poll results, especially now that people have so many entertainment choices, he said.
Eugene King, a designer from Philadelphia, may typify what Brooks means. King, 51, agreed that television isn't what it used to be, yet can tick off all the things he likes to watch: "This Old House," "Masterpiece Theater," science fiction programs, even Jerry Springer ("You know it's a bunch of crap, you know it's coming, so you deal with it," he said).
He's aware enough to cite a specific new show -- NBC's "Journeyman" -- that he's eager to see. When pollsters asked which new shows people are most looking forward to seeing this fall, only 7% could name one.
King said he's tired of cop and forensics shows, can't stand game shows and is tired of constant envelope-pushing.
"They're trying to be as dirty as they can be, or as dirty as they can get away with," he said.
Midwesterners are most likely to think TV shows are getting worse, the poll found. And a startling 85% of white evangelical Christians who attend church at least once a week said TV is going downhill.
The poll found 71% of Americans believe there are too many reality shows on television, but that's actually an improvement from the 80% who said the same thing in an AP-TV Guide poll in 2005. And here's a caution for CBS: 9% of respondents spontaneously mentioned "Survivor" as the program they'd most like to see canceled.
"I'm not entertained by watching people eat spiders," said Jeanie Peterson, 59, of New Orleans.
Less than one American in 10 said they have watched a full-length television show over the Internet. For those under 30, it's 14%, the poll found.
The poll found 28% of Americans say they would like to see more news on television, compared to 17% in the 2005 survey.
The poll was conducted by Ipsos and involved interviews with 1,204 adults from Aug. 24-26. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.