Every now and then I am stopped dead in my insomniac tracks by something truly shocking that catches my eyes when scanning for media news. These days, it’s anything that breaks a 1.0 rating in adults 18-49.
WHEN NATURE CALLS was far and away the most-watched television program on broadcast television last Thursday night, delivering a 1.3 and more than 7 million total viewers, significantly higher than what we had expected would have been #1, CBS’ BIG BROTHER. For those who are even later to the party than I, this is a “comedy wildlife” unscripted series narrated by Dame Helen Mirren. It takes standard National Geographic-type footage of animals frolicking and overdubs it with a mashup of Valley Girl and country accents and a prolonged contemplation of a “partially in-ground swimming pool” by a clearly psychologically troubled black bear named Dennis.
It is anything but original. For one thing, it’s based on an existing British series. For another, it’s a stylistic cousin to AMERICA’S FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS. WHEN NATURE CALLS does for other mammals what AFHV has successfully done for humans for 32 years. That’s right–next to 60 MINUTES, AFHV is the longest-running primetime television series on the air, old enough now to be at the very heart of the coveted demographic it still regularly wins its time period in. WNC is nearly twice as popular during a time of year that is historically much harder to achieve viewership in, let alone in one that followed a pandemic.
It is bizarre. It is beautiful. It is pure WTF. And I can’t get enough of it. It speaks Leblanguage as eloquently as any show I’ve seen anywhere in years. I f***ing love it. Most importantly, I’m not an outlier in this musing. IT GOT A 1.3. Before time-shifted viewing is factored in. Before streaming viewing is added on. Without my unmetered connected device. In the world we are living in–remember in 80% of the country it airs head-to-head with TUCKER CARLSON–it is television as vital as anything being aired today, certainly more vital than Tucker.
I watched Thursday’s episode fully sober. Clearly it was not written by people who could say the same. I would love to have conducted research on this as we introduced more and more alcohol and/or weed into the viewing session, fully anticipating a dial trajectory that would resemble that of torque as an engine is revved. Yes, we’d pay particpants with an Uber ride and bloody mary mix.
I can’t wait to catch up on the episodes I’ve missed, and certainly can’t wait for the remaining original episodes. It is certain to be renewed. Dennis’ psyche rides on it.
Until next time…