Monday, July 07, 2008

An open letter to NBCU

Okay, so now you own the Weather Channel.

As a long-time viewer, and die-hard weather geek, I'd like to offer you a few suggestions.

A. Stick to what the Weather Channel does best. In other words: reporting the weather.

There are many reasons why the narrowly focused approach succeeds, in my opinion.

First of all - when people know that they can surf over to your channel and be sure of finding weather reporting, they will do that. (With the proliferation of programs - the "It Could Happen Tomorrows," the anti-global-warming stuff, the recounting of some weather-disaster that happened in 1967 - not so much).

It is frustrating to want to know what the weather is, and to find that your channel is playing some program about a big snowstorm that happened in 1932. Most of your viewers weren't even born then!

Second, and I realize this is a reason personal to me - but there is something comforting about wall-to-wall weather information. You see, I suffer from insomnia from time to time. And one of the few things that helps is getting up and watching something sort of slow-moving, sort of big-scale, something I don't have to (and in fact, can't) do anything about. Watching the progression of fronts across the continent is strangely soothing to me (as I said: I'm a weather geek). I do not like to flop down on the sofa at 2 am and see P. Allen Smith's face, or some re-run of a show about what might happen if a megatornado hit Dallas.

The other channels run infomercials at that time, which actually make me angry, so your channel is one of the few I could count on.


B. Dump "It could happen tomorrow." It's fear-mongering at its worst. It's basically climate p0rn. Also- hubris may have been a concept that went out with the ancient Greeks, but do keep in mind that one of the earliest episodes - which wound up having to stay in the can - was about a giant hurricane hitting New Orleans. And Katrina happened not long after the episode was completed (necessitating its staying "in the can," as I said).

Oh, I'm sure there are people who like that show. I just don't know any of them. I'd guess they're also the kind of people who like shows like "Nanny 911!" and other "reality" programming that features dysfunctional people and lots of yelling. Ask yourself: is that the audience we really want?

C. Limit the global-warming/climate change stuff. You're the WEATHER channel, not the CLIMATE channel. We already have one sucky network ("Green" tv or whatever the hell it's called - it used to be Discovery Home) that devotes its entire day of programming to trying to make people feel bad for living in a post-Industrial Revolution world. If you're so very concerned about pollution, go dark for part of the day. Shut everything down. Or something. But don't tell people in the middle of a heat wave how much damage their air conditioning is doing to the climate, because that will just piss them off.

Oh, and don't fire people who challenge the "party line" on global climate change, either. Let them speak. There's more debate allowed on the airwaves on the divinity of Jesus, for goodness sake, than there is about climate change.

D. If you do feel the need to show "programming" (other than reporting the weather), limit it. You know how people joke about "Remember when MTV used to show music videos?" Don't fall victim to mission creep.

If you do show "programming," I have a couple of suggestions.

First, in-depth factual programs about how the weather works. Explain how a cool front can turn into a stationary front. Talk about the El Nino cycle and why it matters. Inform people. (But please - be factual, don't be all hype-y, and please don't mention anthropogenic effects contributing to things unless there's clear evidence).

Second, the weather-and-history program is OK - but don't run the same one fifteen different times in a week.

Third, maybe some kind of short (like 15 minute) "practical advice" program on dealing with aspects of weather - what heatstroke is, how to prevent it. What hypothermia is. Normally I'd say the audience is too smart to need this, but from what I've seen happen to people around where I live recently, maybe not.

E. If there is severe weather ANYWHERE in the nation, suspend or at least break into regular programming to give updates. There are people in this country who live in areas with few local channels (or in some cases, no local channels). And those local channels can get knocked off the air during severe weather - I've seen it happen.

It is simply infuriating to turn to the "Weather" channel during a large outbreak of severe thunderstorms-with-possible-embedded-tornadoes and find they are playing a program on a blizzard that happened in Maine in 1934.

Again: avoid mission creep. You are the WEATHER channel.

I don't suppose you'll take my suggestions, as a single lowly consumer. (And as a single lowly consumer in the unmarried childless female over 34 age group, I may as well be invisible). But I do think there are some things that have happened to the Weather Channel in the last five years that should be reversed and undone.

Thank you for listening.

1 comment:

nightfly said...

Jiminy - THANK YOU for the "It Could Happen Tomorrow" rant. We don't need a poorly-narrated, amateur-CGI production telling us that a big tornado would wreck up a city. DUH. "Hey kids, if an earthquake struck Des Moines, it would knock down hundreds of buildings and possibly mess around with the major rivers! Hundreds could die! [giggle]"

Well NO FOOLING! That's why we call those things natural disasters and not "kinda inconveniences." Next they'll be telling us that gravity pulls unsupported objects towards the ground.