My wife and I enjoy watching the television program, Criminal Minds. We have followed the exploits of the fictionalized B.A.U. (Behavioral Analysis Unit) from the very first episode, which aired in September 2005. Even though we fit into the key demographic — 18-49 year-olds — we are now beyond that even more coveted sub-group, the 18-35 year-olds. Alas, with age and experience come some downsides.
Although older viewers tend to be some of the most loyal, advertisers believe that the younger demographic is where it’s at. A series can lose the over-50 crowd and still survive. But, heaven forbid if the show hemorrhages younger viewers. When this begins to happen, it’s only a matter of time before the series is either cancelled or fails to get picked up for another season.
Because of the obsession with the youth culture and all things young, television shows are now produced for and marketed to 18 to 49 year-olds (especially 18 to 35 year-olds). The studios don’t mind the older folks watching their shows, but they much prefer the younger audiences. Ponce de Leon did not have anything on this generation.
With the intense competition in today’s fragmented television market, it’s no wonder that producers and advertisers target a younger audience. CBS shows like The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, and NCIS appeal to the young demographic, although NCIS has an even broader appeal.
You would think that Hollywood would want to have as big an audience for their product as possible, but you would be wrong. Many times, Hollywood has such a narrow target audience in mind that it misses out on a broader audience, which translates into more market share and higher ratings. However, the youth culture so drives Hollywood that they would rather have lower overall numbers if they could have higher numbers in the key 18-49 year-old demographic.
How does this narrowing of the target audience happen? In one of two ways: content and/or casting. If the content of the show is too narrow (think Jersey Shore), you might have a higher share of younger people watching, but the overall ratings will suffer because you have limited the audience.
The other way that Hollywood often limits its potential audience is through bad casting choices. Take the new Criminal Minds spin-off, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior. When the characters for this new show were introduced last year, it looked promising. Because my wife and I both love the original Criminal Minds, we had a built-in loyalty to the new show.
However, one bad casting decision can affect viewership. When I discovered that Janeane Garofalo was added to the cast, I knew immediately that I would not watch Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior. I did make a concession by watching 24 when she was on, but I will not invest in a new show with her as one of the stars.
Why the producers and the executives at CBS would, right out of the shoot, limit their potential audience by casting Garofalo is perplexing. She is not only an annoying actress in just about any role, but she has gone out of her way to alienate and offend a huge portion of potential viewers for this show. While she has the First Amendment rights to say things that many Christians find objectionable and offensive, CBS and the producers of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior should understand that people like my wife and me, who might have otherwise been favorably inclined to watch the spin-off, have instead been turned off by the casting of Ms. Garofalo.
Hollywood is not unique in its penchant for limiting its audience through content and casting choices. Check back on Wednesday for an in-depth analysis of how the content and casting for this year’s Southern Baptist Convention Pastor’s Conference may likewise limit the potential audience who will show up and tune in at Phoenix.