… and I remember M*A*S*H, do you?


Two Americas, tuning each other out
Data: Google. Map: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The country’s polarization now extends to entertainment television, Axios’ Shane Savitsky writes.

Why it matters: Americans used to have only a few TV options, producing mass-culture moments like The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” the “Who shot J.R.?” episode of “Dallas,” and the “M*A*S*H” finale.

But just as social media exacerbated our tribalization, the rise of cable and streaming services has created a wealth of content — increasingly targeted and niche — that has become part of our cultural splintering.

The state of play: You can see the split by the geographic schisms in Google interest in two programs — HBO’s “Succession” and USA’s live wrestling “WWE Raw” — which both air weekly to similarly-sized audiences.

Succession,” a comedy-drama about the machinations of a Murdoch-y family running a media conglomerate, kicked off its second season this month with constant coverage in the fancy press (see the N.Y. Times’ “The Making of Wealth Porn“) and a slew of awards nominations. Its search interest is highest on the coasts and in the priciest cities in the U.S., New York and San Francisco.

Raw,” the wrestling extravaganza in its 26th season, hasn’t had a mention in The Times in the past year, even as it had the second-most social media interactions per episode of any TV series in 2018, according to Nielsen. And its search interest is decidedly clustered in the Rust Belt and the South — prime Trump country.

Traditional network shows also face this same divide, according to a SurveyMonkey poll for Business Insider.

Last Man Standing,” Tim Allen’s unabashedly conservative Fox comedy series, was listed by 65% of conservatives as one of their five favorite shows — and 0% of liberals.

NBC’s “The Good Place,” a philosophy-heavy comedic look at the afterlife, was a top-fiver for 59% of liberals, but just 6% of conservatives.

Last year’s ill-fated reboot of “Roseanne” on ABC — now spun off as “The Conners” following its titular star’s racist Twitter tirade — was the rare show that tried to bridge the political divide, briefly becoming the highest-rated sitcom in years when it first premiered, per The Hollywood Reporter.The big picture: Week after week, the list of the most-watched shows on cable television is dominated by Fox News — with a few appearances by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow — highlighting how political punditry so often functions as entertainment in Americans’ media diets.The space is so lucrative that Fox News launched its own streaming service last year, which includes entertainment programming centered on its pundits, like a cooking show featuring “Fox & Friends” host Steve Doocy.The bottom line: This trend will accelerate as more and more streaming services with their own cloistered libraries spin up, highlighted by the launch of Disney+ later this year.

About eslkevin

I am a peace educator who has taken time to teach and work in countries such as the USA, Germany, Japan, Nicaragua, Mexico, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman over the past 4 decades.
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