Why the networks root for a hard freeze

The new Hawaii Five-O: Part of the networks plot to keep us indoors watching. MARIO PEREZ/CBS
The new Hawaii Five-O: Part of the networks plot to keep us indoors watching. MARIO PEREZ/CBS
Posted: April 21, 2012

One of my favorite soap opera plots of all time played out on General Hospital in the summer of 1981 when Mikkos Cassadine was well on his way to freezing the planet, starting of course with Port Charles, using a cleverly designed weather machine. He might have gotten away with it, too, if Luke and Laura had not foiled his evil plot.

Together with Robert Scorpio, they pretty much took down the Cassadine clan. Well, except for Mikkos’ vindictive widow, Helena (Elizabeth Taylor, her head wrapped tightly in a turban), who showed up at Luke and Laura’s subsequent wedding and placed a curse on their union. Even naming their son Lucky could not ward off Helena’s spell.

The freeze conspiracy may sound like a ludicrous story to you, but what if I told you it was rooted in reality? The shocking truth is that for many years, the networks were secretly collaborating on Project Cassadine, a weather machine that would create a climate all across the country patterned on the one in International Falls, Minn.

Its purpose: to keep the people of this great nation huddled in their houses and watching TV.

I am about to let you in on one of the TV industry’s biggest secrets: It hates warm and clement weather.

When the temperature goes up, the ratings go down. This week, for instance, large portions of the country enjoyed unseasonably halcyon conditions. And shows almost across the board — How I Met Your Mother, The Voice, Glee, Modern Family, Awake, The Vampire Diaries, American Idol, NCIS, Revenge, and others — saw their numbers plummet as if the Nielsen god had pulled the plug in his bathtub.

You may have noticed the TV season follows the traditional school year for essentially the same reason: It’s impossible to keep our attention when we could be outside, running around comfortably without a coat.

The networks’ first planned solution was shot down. The FCC absolutely forbade them to lace our water supply with high levels of tranquilizers in order to keep us inert on the couch.

They reluctantly went with a more subtle backup strategy. It’s simple, really. Whatever else may change about television, there is always a series set in Hawaii on the air. At the moment, it’s the revival of that old Jack Lord classic, Hawaii Five-O. The subliminal message sent by these Polynesian perennials: This is Paradise. Where you live is nothing like this. You do not want to go outside. They are in Waikiki. You are in Akron. And now a word from our sponsors.

Swing and a miss. Did you see this week’s Mad Men? I’ve given this some thought, and I’m ready to declare that little conference-room donnybrook between Pete and Lane the worst fight ever.

Did it strike you as in character for either of these gents to engage in fisticuffs? I can’t see a situation in which either of them would even take off his jacket. And yes, we know Lane is British. That was made almost cartoonishly clear in the pub scene earlier in the episode. But is he from 19th-century England? What’s with the fists-up John. L. Sullivan boxing stance? Finally, Pete’s face wouldn’t have been that bruised and battered afterward even if Lane had been using brass knuckles. Which is strictly against the Marquis of Queensberry rules, old chap.

Go figure. You gotta love Touch — fighting the lonely battle to make math seem exciting.

This week Kiefer Sutherland comes over to Danny Glover’s house and, at his request, begins reading off the numbers that Sutherland’s savant son has brought to his attention over the last few months.

Kiefer starts to recite, “318529632 … .”

A gleeful Glover suddenly jumps in, correctly completing the sequence: “ … 879522.”

“How could you possibly know that?” marvels Sutherland.

“The numbers your son gives you, Mr. Bohm, aren’t new,” says Glover.

Hold on. I’m pretty sure that “9” thing hasn’t been used before. You have to give him credit for coming up with that one.

Contact David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or dhiltbrand@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @daveondemand_tv. Read his blog, “Dave on Demand,” at www.philly.com/dod.

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