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1 Political Atheist  Fri, Dec 7, 2012 9:22:30am

Good post. Chicken and egg here. As goes the population, so goes the ratings. As goes the population so goes the demographics like a leftward momentum from dense urban cities. The power base shifted from rural to urban. Votes and ratings in the same phenomenon. Those out of power were and are feeling the impact in cultural and political terms.

2 Destro  Fri, Dec 7, 2012 9:36:11am

re: #1 Political Atheist

Thanks! I think the sudden nature of that purge (it was before my time so I can't know from any first hand experience) may have had an unsettling quality to a a demographic population those shows were targeted to.

Right about this time the 'western' died out also as both a movie and television staple.

3 Randall Gross  Fri, Dec 7, 2012 9:39:48am

Very interesting theory, but the Waltons debuted that year, and Little House on the Prairie was soon to follow. It probably was a contributory factor, but really it was more of a symptom of the demographic changes across America, not the cause if you ask me.

That's why we saw Buddy Ebsen transplanted from Beverly Hillbillies to Barnaby Jones. The country was moving to the city at the time, and TV just replicated that. Rural life became Idealized historic drama (Waltons, Little House on the Prairie) and transplants from country to city were featured. (McCloud anyone?) CBS & other Networks still follow that pattern (NCIS - Gibbs, Leverage - Eliott, CSI - Nick, CSI NY - Lindsay, etc.) because it works to keep that demographic locked in.

It helped, but it really wasn't until the 90's that this fish lipped Christian Tribalist wrote his separatist manifesto and started building the other institutions. (If you look back you will also see that Heritage & FCF started before your timeline too)

4 Destro  Fri, Dec 7, 2012 9:43:47am

re: #3 Randall Gross

That's a very good point. Instead of being the cause of any discontent it was just a marketing reflection of where the country was heading.

In that regard it may have been a visible sign of the changing landscape that was part of the 'culture wars' Pat Buchanan had been always mentioning.

5 Randall Gross  Fri, Dec 7, 2012 9:52:06am

re: #4 Destro

I think there is an effect there but it's never just one thing that you can point to for cause in most major trends.

6 Rocky-in-Connecticut  Fri, Dec 7, 2012 9:58:04am

It is ironic that Normal Lear-produced hit shows featuring loud-mouthed anti-heroes were watched and loved by many conservatives. I remember my own father (a tax-hating, government loathing southern conservative) loved watching Archie Bunker.

I think one could watch a well-written show like that and identify with and champion the anti-hero even into the end of the show when they eventually get their comeuppance. (Remember Sammy Davis Jr kissing Archie anyone?)

Conservatives could ignore the overall message of the plot and revel in the ideology expressed openly on TV by someone like Archie, keeping their mind more or less shut, ignoring the overall message of the show. Archie was their Id on full display and they loved it.

7 Randall Gross  Fri, Dec 7, 2012 9:58:38am

The other thing that major broadcasters have figured out: even though that rural audience are small pools compared to those great lakes in the cities, the rural audience is highly loyal and always tuned in. When I visit my Dad's friends in Forsythe MO either Fox news, Turner Classic Movies, or some Iteration of Law and Order is the constant background noise. Even though nobody is really watching it sure helps their ratings.

8 Destro  Fri, Dec 7, 2012 10:00:02am

re: #6 Rocky-in-Connecticut

(Remember Sammy Davis Jr kissing Archie anyone?)

Was that why it was funny? A black guy kissing a racist white guy and the joke was on Archie? I assumed it was because Davis had come out in support for Nixon and this was a play on that (again before my time- going on what I recall from studying the culture).

9 Destro  Fri, Dec 7, 2012 10:04:46am

re: #7 Randall Gross

The other thing that major broadcasters have figured out: even though that rural audience are small pools compared to those great lakes in the cities, the rural audience is highly loyal and always tuned in. When I visit my Dad's friends in Forsythe MO either Fox news, Turner Classic Movies, or some Iteration of Law and Order is the constant background noise. Even though nobody is really watching it sure helps their ratings.

Country music is really the only place where physical album sales are still a factor other than children's CD sales.

From what I recall, grandparents tend to but children's music CDs as presents so that is why those sales are strong and country music cds sell because those areas lack bandwidth that would allow easy downloading. But it can also be because country fans are die hard loyal. From what I have seen of country music fans, their relationship to the musician is not based on his music alone but on his narrative (family man, loves god, patriotic) and if the star veers from the narrative they will react against the star.

10 Joanne  Fri, Dec 7, 2012 11:30:36am

Interesting theory, one I think has merit of study.

I think that, and someone correct me if I am wrong, that this timeframe was about when right wing radio started pupping up on dials across America where little else was offered. When I was a kid, we'd drive from Chicago to Florida and WGN, a powerful Chicago station, would follow for so long, but other than that, there was virtually nothing on radio.

Right wing radio filled up rural airwaves. I don't know the year it started, though.

11 dragonath  Fri, Dec 7, 2012 12:01:33pm

I remember reading about right wing radio in the LA as far back as the late 60s*. And in other forms of media, you had the conservative wig-out of cartoonists like Al Capp and Milton Caniff.

*Joe Pyne, best known today for Zappa's putdown:

Pyne: "So, I guess your long hair makes you a woman."
Zappa: "So I guess your wooden leg makes you a table!"

12 RadicalModerate  Fri, Dec 7, 2012 12:32:23pm

There was a programming shift in the early 1970s from targeting an older audience to a younger, more urban demographic by CBS - but this was more due to their seeing their ratings stranglehold slipping to ABC (and to a lesser degree NBC) due to ABC's heavy programming toward younger audiences.
And simply because a show had a urban setting didn't mean that it had a smaller audience, either. For example, "All in the Family" had HUGE ratings in rural America.

Finally, the so-called rural purge wasn't absolute by any means either, as there were still rural-themed shows like Gunsmoke and The Waltons anchoring their scheduling days.

13 Destro  Fri, Dec 7, 2012 1:30:43pm

re: #12 RadicalModerate

I can talk about TV history (and its impact on culture) all day long.

14 KingKenrod  Fri, Dec 7, 2012 2:25:52pm

I think the rural purge is just one of many things that represented a loss of political and cultural control to white Christian conservatives, a loss which had been ongoing throughout the century. The siege mentality you describe is real, but it hardly started with something trivial like the rural purge. How can you differentiate from outrage supposedly starting in the early 1970's from earlier movements, like the Dixiecrat split from the Democratic Party?

15 Destro  Fri, Dec 7, 2012 2:57:50pm

re: #14 KingKenrod

I think the rural purge is just one of many things that represented a loss of political and cultural control to white Christian conservatives, a loss which had been ongoing throughout the century. The siege mentality you describe is real, but it hardly started with something trivial like the rural purge. How can you differentiate from outrage supposedly starting in the early 1970's from earlier movements, like the Dixiecrat split from the Democratic Party?

I don't. I kind of think it was like one of the many straws on their camel's back kind of thing but because it was TV it was more, I don't know, tangible?

16 Holidays are Family Fun Time  Fri, Dec 7, 2012 10:34:53pm

There was Hee Haw and many country singers had their own TV Variety Shows. Dolly Parton got her start with Porter Waggoner. I can also remember many Johnny Cash specials. Oh yeah, Lawrence Welk was still on the air.

I think the Citified shows were striking a balance.

17 Destro  Sat, Dec 8, 2012 1:55:05am

re: #16 Holidays are Family Fun Time

There was Hee Haw and many country singers had their own TV Variety Shows. Dolly Parton got her start with Porter Waggoner. I can also remember many Johnny Cash specials. Oh yeah, Lawrence Welk was still on the air.

I think the Citified shows were striking a balance.

i just realized why this was in my thoughts for a while now. I recalled Romney singing the Davey Crockett television theme song on a campaign stop (I know that show predated the purge era shows). I just found that odd (more odd than normal for Mitt) and it must have stuck in my mind -- and the crowd going "yeah!" like he did something profound.


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