Gone Wild: A Programming Disaster
April 2, 2003
By Glen Coburn
Sagging ratings have prompted the Bush Administration to
turn up the heat.
Initial television ads for the new reality show Operation
Iraqi Freedom promised viewers a kinder, gentler, more
whimsical spin on traditional warfare. Audiences would be
treated to a heartwarming desert romp featuring jig-dancing
Iraqi peasants tossing floral bouquets at throngs of liberating
U.S. troops. Originally scheduled for one week, early subplots
included high-tech missiles targeting facilities sheltering
evil Muslims and bypassing innocent, quaintly dressed Arabs.
But the real crowd pleaser was U.S. intelligence speculation
that head-villain Saddam Hussein was blown to bits in the
early hours of the riotous conflagration.
Early numbers indicated a record-breaking tally of viewers.
These numbers may have been misleading taking into account
that O.I.F. was the only show running at the time.
Viewership dropped significantly after the first five, twenty-four
hour episodes. This trend is attributed to the fact that regular
programming preempted war coverage.
Also, mainstream viewers started losing interest. Reruns
of Friends and E.R. were the shows to beat and
they both offered more action, drama, comedy, emergency room
antics and camera angles than the latest in the already saturated
schedule of reality-based programming. President Bush Jr.
may regret ignoring his father, former U.S. CEO George Bush
Sr.ís advice to hold off on the war until after the completion
of the present round of American Idol. Fortunately,
President Jr. implemented Dad's idea of intimidating the singing
contest producers into putting a country-and-western-crooning
United States Marine on the popular Fox program. However,
the move backfired when the Garth Brooks-inspired Marine scored
an even larger audience for Idol.
Even hardcore fans of O.I.F. have become disenchanted
at the presumed never-ending length of the series, hoping
the producers will cut back to two episodes a week. And almost
all viewers are disgusted at the mounting list of casualties.
Audiences are apparently turned off by the idea of America's
finest young men and women sacrificing their lives in support
of a poorly justified military action. Producers claim they
informed viewers of the impending death toll and extended
length of the war although there is no documentation to support
Audiences are also confused at the unexpected plot twist
concerning the bitter, violent opposition of the Iraqi people
toward the troops who came to secure the freedom that they
didn't ask for in the first place. At a price tag of seventy-five
billion dollars and counting, this show is a destined bomb.
And there's no hope for recouping the loss in foreign television
markets because of itís universal lack of popularity in almost
every country in the world. However, it did barely find a
spot on the night-owl schedule in Cameroon which was not unexpected
considering the huge ad campaign by the Bush Administration
and several personal appearances by the star of the show himself.
Don't look for this overblown television event to disappear
quickly. Producers are already planning two spin-offs. I'm
an Iraqi, Get Me Outta Here and Celebrity Showdown
With Saddam are already slated for mid-season replacements
on the WB.