Entertainment and an Aging Demographic

24 Jul
Bill Cosby in 1969 - click on the link for a recent appearance

Bill Cosby already a big star in 1969

Over the years the entertainment industry has been able to eschew a significant portion of the lingering cultural bias in programming. When the TV series I Spy came out, it was a big deal to have a black man star in a leading role. As big of a star as Robert Culp may have been over the years, it became obvious how great the talent was of Bill Cosby. Beginning in the 1980’s, Cosby through sheer popularity of his television show kept NBC from sinking into the abyss and single-handedly revived the sit-com.

Having got past that problem, the entertainment industry is facing another reality, older people. You know, cotton tops, baggy drawers, guardians of the buffet table, we’ve heard it all. The problem is, we still own and buy stuff which are the principal reasons for TV & radio. They just put on entertainment so the people watching and listening will buy stuff.

Somehow in the infinite wisdom of the marketing geniuses and the executive elite, they’ve determined their target audience are between the ages of 18 to 49. Forget the kids or especially the older people, let the AARP have them. The trouble with that brilliant piece of marketing is there are a lot of people above the age of 50 and they still need services and buy things, expensive things.

The other dilemma for the wizards of commercialism is figuring out what to advertise. Evidently they think we have erectile dysfunction, incontinence, diabetes or we’ve collapsed in a heap somewhere and are unable to stand upright again. By the way, an awful lot of the 18 to 49 year olds must be suffering from depression because the marketing suggests they have a lot of different pills for it. Perhaps you’re depressed because you’ve kicked all the old people out of your lives and put them on some electronic dog tag which they can use to summon someone from the 18 to 49-year-old group. Wouldn’t it just be easier if they lived nearby and you occasionally visit them to find out if they’ve fallen?

President Obama and Jay Leno

President Barack Obama and Jay Leno chat.

This says a lot about stereotyping but as further evidence I present this example among many to support how prevalent ageism is within our culture. Jay Leno has dominated the late night talk show time slot. He has a significant lead over Dave Letterman and a huge ratings margin over Jimmy Kimmel. All of this in the 18 to 49-year-old demographic. Those familiar may recall, the 63-year-old Leno was side-lined over four years ago by the network in favor of the younger Conan O’Brien. That lasted for less than a year and he was restored to the Tonight Show, castigated by negative publicity and temporary ratings decline. The plan now in progress is where he will vacate his position as host of the Tonight Show in favor of Jimmy Fallon in 2014. Fallon is talented and in my opinion, has the best backup band of any that use them. Hopefully they will be retained.

Meanwhile, Leno like most of us ‘mature’ citizens get kicked to the curb for being past some artificial age limit. Bill Cosby on the other hand is still touring the country. Bill Cosby performing on David Letterman. The first part is a great skit about older people.


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One response to “Entertainment and an Aging Demographic

  1. Chris Barfoot

    25/07/2013 at 02:30

    Television didn’t even exist a hundred years ago. In fact it’s barely been an entity for seventy years… yet here it is, a symbol of the modern world.. I even have one as part of my mobile (cell) phone- which incidentally- in its most recognisable form has only been around for about twenty-five years…

    Television has become integral in all our lives. It is teacher/educator, comforter and even master… (do this, buy this, think this, obey) and the characters or presenters of regular late night viewing become like imprinted on us… two dimensional family members or dear friends yet unmet or even known at all.
    So when they’re fired or have expired- we naturally mourn their passing. We miss them… our lives are somehow emptier without their wit and influence. I miss ‘Parkinson’ from when I was a kid… the great interviews as seen on British Television, for my American cousins it will no doubt be ‘Carson’. But all this only counts if you’re of a certain generation. Today’s youth (which is the major target of modern Television) have their own icons… the plastic throwaway presenters usually bestowed with only basic communication skills, devoid of charisma, personality, depth soul or talent… Television now is a source of overplayed OTT dramatic news stories, porn and music. If it wasn’t for Discovery and the movie channels I wouldn’t even bother to watch it anymore… truth.

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