Sitcoms, crime shows waning in the US

MUMBAI: With Friends and Frasier coming to a close earlier this year the share of sitcoms in primetime programming in the US has gone down. However the amount of content devoted to teen shows is on the up.

A study was conducted by the Chicano Studies Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. In 2002 sitcoms occupied 21.8 per cent of prime-time

hours and in 2003, 21.7 per cent. This year the share dropped sharply to 15.5 per cent. Last year, crime shows constituted 22.7 per cent of prime-time hours. This year they occupy just 15.5 per cent.

More teen shows fill the mediascape this year. This trend that might be attributed to the economic benefits received by the US networks when they create shows that appeal to youth audiences. Five per cent of primetime hours are dedicated to the teen scene. Even CBS, a network known for its persistent courting of the 25-54 yearold age group, has programmed a teen series this year, Clubhouse..

The rise of reality programming this year has come at the expense of sitcoms and crime shows. Reality series now dominate prime-time, occupying 21 hours of programming time and making up 20 per cent of prime-time hours. They are money-savers for the networks because they are cheap to produce, but they also maintain high viewership and promote viewer feedback, particularly vis-à-vis the internet.

Both NBC and UPN are also saving money with their wildly popular reality shows The Apprentice and Americas Next Top Model by airing the same episode twice in one week.

Another study conducted by the same organisation found that the US networks are giving short shrift to minority characters. Television series feature largely white casts even when the setting is an ethnically diverse city such as Los Angeles or New York. While Los Angeles County's population is nearly 45 per cent Hispanic, Hispanics accounted for only 14 per cent of characters seen regularly on the eight 2004 primetime series set in Los Angeles.

There were no Asian-American regular characters, the study found, although this ethnic group makes up 12 per cent of Los Angeles County's population. One of the show that is set in an ethnically diverse city but has an all-white cast is the sitcom Joey.

On reality shows, white male hosts are the standard, the study found. The Next Great Champ, which aired on Fox before moving to Fox Sports due to disappointing ratings had the sole Hispanic host with boxer Oscar De La Hoya. ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, UPN and WB fell short of demographic representation, although ABC "shows promise" with its roster of Hispanic characters, according to the study.

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