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  • I want to say that really and truly,

  • after these incredible speeches

  • and ideas that are being spread,

  • I am in the awkward position

  • of being here to talk to you today

  • about television.

  • So most everyone watches TV.

  • We like it. We like some parts of it.

  • Here in America, people actually love TV.

  • The average American watches TV

  • for almost 5 hours a day.

  • Okay?

  • Now I happen to make my living these days in television,

  • so for me, that's a good thing.

  • But a lot of people don't love it so much.

  • They, in fact, berate it.

  • They call it stupid,

  • and worse, believe me.

  • My mother, growing up,

  • she called it the "idiot box."

  • But my idea today is not to debate

  • whether there's such a thing as good TV or bad TV;

  • my idea today

  • is to tell you that I believe

  • television has a conscience.

  • So why I believe that television has a conscience

  • is that I actually believe

  • that television directly reflects

  • the moral, political,

  • social and emotional need states of our nation --

  • that television is how we actually disseminate

  • our entire value system.

  • So all these things are uniquely human,

  • and they all add up

  • to our idea of conscience.

  • Now today, we're not talking about good and bad TV.

  • We're talking about popular TV.

  • We're talking about top-10 Nielsen-rated shows

  • over the course of 50 years.

  • How do these Nielsen ratings

  • reflect not just what you've heard about,

  • which is the idea of our social, collective unconscious,

  • but how do these top-10 Nielsen-rated shows

  • over 50 years

  • reflect the idea

  • of our social conscience?

  • How does television evolve over time,

  • and what does this say about our society?

  • Now speaking of evolution,

  • from basic biology, you probably remember

  • that the animal kingdom, including humans,

  • have four basic primal instincts.

  • You have hunger; you have sex; you have power;

  • and you have the urge for acquisitiveness.

  • As humans, what's important to remember

  • is that we've developed, we've evolved over time

  • to temper, or tame,

  • these basic animal instincts.

  • We have the capacity to laugh and cry.

  • We feel awe, we feel pity.

  • That is separate and apart

  • from the animal kingdom.

  • The other thing about human beings

  • is that we love to be entertained.

  • We love to watch TV.

  • This is something that clearly separates us

  • from the animal kingdom.

  • Animals might love to play,

  • but they don't love to watch.

  • So I had an ambition

  • to discover what could be understood

  • from this uniquely human relationship

  • between television programs

  • and the human conscious.

  • Why has television entertainment evolved the way it has?

  • I kind of think of it

  • as this cartoon devil or angel

  • sitting on our shoulders.

  • Is television literally functioning

  • as our conscience,

  • tempting us and rewarding us at the same time?

  • So to begin to answer these questions,

  • we did a research study.

  • We went back 50 years

  • to the 1959/1960 television season.

  • We surveyed the top-20 Nielsen shows

  • every year for 50 years --

  • a thousand shows.

  • We talked to over 3,000 individuals --

  • almost 3,600 --

  • aged 18 to 70,

  • and we asked them how they felt emotionally.

  • How did you feel

  • watching every single one of these shows?

  • Did you feel a sense of moral ambiguity?

  • Did you feel outrage? Did you laugh?

  • What did this mean for you?

  • So to our global TED audiences,

  • I want to say that this was a U.S. sample.

  • But as you can see,

  • these emotional need states are truly universal.

  • And on a factual basis,

  • over 80 percent of the U.S.'s most popular shows

  • are exported around the world.

  • So I really hope our global audiences

  • can relate.

  • Two acknowledgments

  • before our first data slide:

  • For inspiring me

  • to even think about the idea of conscience

  • and the tricks that conscience can play on us on a daily basis,

  • I thank legendary rabbi, Jack Stern.

  • And for the way in which I'm going to present the data,

  • I want to thank TED community superstar Hans Rosling,

  • who you may have just seen.

  • Okay, here we go.

  • So here you see,

  • from 1960 to 2010,

  • the 50 years of our study.

  • Two things we're going to start with --

  • the inspiration state and the moral ambiguity state,

  • which, for this purpose,

  • we defined inspiration

  • as television shows that uplift me,

  • that make me feel much more positive about the world.

  • Moral ambiguity are televisions shows

  • in which I don't understand

  • the difference between right and wrong.

  • As we start, you see in 1960

  • inspiration is holding steady.

  • That's what we're watching TV for.

  • Moral ambiguity starts to climb.

  • Right at the end of the 60s,

  • moral ambiguity is going up,

  • inspiration is kind of on the wane.

  • Why?

  • The Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK is shot,

  • the Civil Rights movement,

  • race riots, the Vietnam War,

  • MLK is shot, Bobby Kennedy is shot,

  • Watergate.

  • Look what happens.

  • In 1970, inspiration plummets.

  • Moral ambiguity takes off.

  • They cross,

  • but Ronald Reagan, a telegenic president, is in office.

  • It's trying to recover.

  • But look, it can't:

  • AIDS, Iran-Contra,

  • the Challenger disaster, Chernobyl.

  • Moral ambiguity becomes the dominant meme in television

  • from 1990 for the next 20 years.

  • Take a look at this.

  • This chart is going to document a very similar trend.

  • But in this case, we have comfort -- the bubble in red --

  • social commentary and irreverence

  • in blue and green.

  • Now this time on TV

  • you have "Bonanza," don't forget, you have "Gunsmoke,"

  • you have "Andy Griffith,"

  • you have domestic shows all about comfort.

  • This is rising. Comfort stays whole.

  • Irreverence starts to rise.

  • Social commentary is all of a sudden spiking up.

  • You get to 1969, and look what happens.

  • You have comfort, irreverence, and social commentary,

  • not only battling it out in our society,

  • but you literally have two establishment shows --

  • "Gunsmoke" and "Gomer Pyle" --

  • in 1969 are the number-two- and number-three-rated television shows.

  • What's number one?

  • The socially irreverent hippie show,

  • "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In."

  • They're all living together, right.

  • Viewers had responded dramatically.

  • Look at this green spike in 1966

  • to a bellwether show.

  • When you guys hear this industry term, a breakout hit,

  • what does that mean?

  • It means in the 1966 television season,

  • The "Smothers Brothers" came out of nowhere.

  • This was the first show

  • that allowed viewers to say,

  • "My God,

  • I can comment on how I feel about the Vietnam War,

  • about the presidency, through television?"

  • That's what we mean by a breakout show.

  • So then, just like the last chart, look what happens.

  • In 1970,

  • the dam bursts. The dam bursts.

  • Comfort is no longer why we watch television.

  • Social commentary and irreverence

  • rise throughout the 70s.

  • Now look at this.

  • The 70s means who? Norman Lear.

  • You have "All in the Family," "Sanford and Son,"

  • and the dominant show --

  • in the top-10 for the entire 70s --

  • "MAS*H."

  • In the entire 50 years

  • of television that we studied,

  • seven of 10 shows

  • ranked most highly for irreverence

  • appeared on air during the Vietnam War,

  • five of the top-10 during the Nixon administration.

  • Only one generation, 20 years in,

  • and we discovered,

  • Wow! TV can do that?

  • It can make me feel this?

  • It can change us?

  • So to this very, very savvy crowd,

  • I also want to note

  • the digital folks did not invent disruptive.

  • Archie Bunker was shoved out of his easy chair

  • along with the rest of us

  • 40 years ago.

  • This is a quick chart. Here's another attribute:

  • fantasy and imagination,

  • which are shows defined as,

  • "takes me out of my everyday realm"

  • and "makes me feel better."

  • That's mapped against the red dot, unemployment,

  • which is a simple Bureau of Labor Department statistic.

  • You'll see

  • that every time fantasy and imagination shows rise,

  • it maps to a spike in unemployment.

  • Do we want to see shows

  • about people saving money and being unemployed?

  • No. In the 70s

  • you have the bellwether show "The Bionic Woman"

  • that rocketed into the top-10 in 1973,

  • followed by the "Six Million-Dollar Man" and "Charlie's Angels."

  • Another spike in the 1980s --

  • another spike in shows about control and power.

  • What were those shows?

  • Glamorous and rich.

  • "Dallas," "Fantasy Island."

  • Incredible mapping of our national psyche

  • with some hard and fast facts:

  • unemployment.

  • So here you are, in my favorite chart,

  • because this is our last 20 years.

  • Whether or not you're in my business,

  • you have surely heard or read

  • of the decline of the thing called the three-camera sitcom

  • and the rise of reality TV.

  • Well, as we say in the business,

  • X marks the spot.

  • The 90s -- the big bubbles of humor --

  • we're watching "Friends," "Frasier," "Cheers" and "Seinfeld."

  • Everything's good, low unemployment.

  • But look: X marks the spot.

  • In 2001,

  • the September 2001 television season,

  • humor succumbs to judgment once and for all.

  • Why not?

  • We had a 2000 presidential election

  • decided by the Supreme Court.

  • We had the bursting of the tech bubble.

  • We had 9/11.

  • Anthrax becomes part of the social lexicon.

  • Look what happens when we keep going.

  • At the turn of the century, the Internet takes off,

  • reality television has taken hold.

  • What do people want in their TV then?

  • I would have thought revenge