Even though the decade doesn’t technically end until the last day of December 2010, the media ourselves included! can’t help but declare this to be the last month of the decade that many are now dubbing “The Naughties.” As such, we have seen a plethora of “Best Of The Decade” lists make their way across our computer screens over the last six months and change, just as we imagine that they’ll continue to do for the next few weeks. Being the nostalgic creatures that we are, we find ourselves sucked into reading nearly all of these lists, but the one that caught our eye today is the Hollywood Reporter’s list of the ten most-watched television shows of the decade. Would it surprise you to find out that five of these ten programs originally aired way back in the year 2000?
Here’s the list:
10) Spin City, 32.8 million (2000)
9) Everybody Loves Raymond, 32.9 million (2005)
8) Frasier, 33.7 million (2000)
7) Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, 36 million (2000)
6) Grey’s Anatomy Post-Super Bowl Show, 38 million (2006)
5) American Idol: Season Six, 38.1 Million (2007)
4) ER, 39.4 million (2000)
3) Joe Millionaire, 40 million (2003)
2) Survivor: Borneo, 51.7 million (2000)
1) Friends, 52.1 million (2004)
Purists out there will note the irony in the fact that we hadn’t fully emerged from the last decade (technically speaking) when five of these programs — the Survivor finale, a big episode of ER, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, the Frasier finale, and Michael J. Fox’s last episode of Spin City — originally aired. Of course, it’s been well reported that television viewership has been fracturing over the course of the decade, thanks to the rise of cable TV and the internet. But what’s even more interesting to us is that there is only one program on the list that made its series debut this decade and also can’t be classified as reality television: the post-Super Bowl episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
This just goes to show that while the television industry has been increasingly successful at developing shows with strong creative p.o.v.’s that play to niche audiences (think The Sopranos, think The Wire, think Mad Men), television’s most creative minds have been unable to develop a scripted program that really hits the national zeitgeist in a way that they used to in previous decades.
So what does that mean for the future of television? Not much, we suppose, because advances in ratings data have enabled television networks and advertisers to rely on demographic data as a way to sell programs instead of the old way where mass viewership was the only thing that mattered. Still, as members of the thirtysomething generation (I’m speaking for only myself here, not for your other, far younger Vulture editor), we miss the old days where millions of Americans shared mass cultural experiences via television, all of which led to lengthy watercooler conversations the next day at work. Then again, most companies we know no longer even have the budgets for watercoolers in the workplace. So maybe it doesn’t matter, after all!