When a thing stops being a “thing”

I was channel surfing recently and stumbled across SURVIVOR. I sampled five minutes of it (I think by this point they’re surviving in the Botanical Gardens at UCLA) and moved on. But it occurred to me – I miss SURVIVOR. Even though it’s still on the air and I could watch it anytime – it’s not the same.

I miss when it was new. An argument can be made that SURVIVOR began the whole reality show trend (but I don’t want to damn them with faint blame). At the time it was innovative, original, and best of all – a “thing.” People talked about it the next day. The contestants became national celebrities. It was a shared event. Richard Hatch was parading around naked on TV long before Lena Dunham (and with a similar body). The first season finale drew a huge audience. Jeff Probst didn’t get on your nerves yet.

Now they’re on their 50th edition, or 103rd edition, they’ve recycled contestants, they’ve created these bogus competitions (bed wetters vs. sleep walkers), and the audience has dwindled from all of America to relatives of the new contestants.

It’s got to be tough for shows that used to be a “thing” to now just muddle along (although THE SIMPSONS have managed okay the last twenty years).

What is now considered a “star” on DANCING WITH THE STARS has been broadened to include Universal Tour Guides.

This is AMERICAN IDOL’S final season. At one time we knew all ten finalists. Now we don’t even know the winner. Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood became legitimate stars. Jennifer Hudson (who lost) later won an Academy Award. The Top 10 would go on summer tours and sell out major arenas.

I suspect the next American Idol will get a gig at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Most “things” become “things” right out of the gate. They capture the zeitgeist for whatever reason and blast upon the scene. Then the luster wears off or they kill Lady Sybil. On the other hand, THE DAILY SHOW was on the air long before it became a “thing.” A change in host and over time Jon Stewart really caught on. For a few years (and a gazillion Emmys) THE DAILY SHOW was THE way to follow the news.

And then Trevor Noah took over, and although the show’s content is pretty much the same, and the numbers haven’t dropped precipitously, it’s just not a “thing” anymore. Same time, same channel, sans zeitgeist.

“Things” are fickle, “things” are fleeting, “things” rarely have a second wind. MAD MEN had its day and it was 1962 not 1969. Same with GIRLS, THE VOICE, HOUSE OF CARDS, Chelsea Handler (thank God), and Republican Debates. And enjoy it while you can GAME OF THRONES, WALKING DEAD, any Kardashian or “Housewife Of.”

But take heart.  For SURVIVOR, AMERICAN IDOL, MAD MEN, and the others – Millennial nostalgia will someday become a “thing.” Like I said, I’m already nostalgic for SURVIVOR and it’s still on.

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