Shaping a nation, and failing

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Just a couple of weeks ago it arrived. A seemingly innocuous 12 by 9 inch cardboard packet, cheerfully plastered in sunny yellow. Emblazoned on the front–Nielsen. Yep, our fair family had been given the task of documenting our TV watching.

If you’re unaware of Nielsen–the company has been running analysis of US TV viewing habits since the 1950s. Through statistical sampling and modeling, extrapolated data from less than 50,000 homes is used to infer what the nations 300 million plus population is glued to on the box. That information is gold dust to marketers and TV network executives alike–and can make or break shows.

Immediately, grandiose thoughts of shaping the nation’s cultural outlook vividly sprang to life. Could we watch endless re-runs of some cancelled cult-classic and re-ignite production; what if we watched the FIFA World Cup in its entirety, could we actually force the USA to embrace soccer and call it by its real name–you know–football? Via hastily scribbled notes in a small paper booklet, we had seemingly been handed a form of power usually reserved for despots.

But wait, there’s more. Our reward for this undoubtedly seismically important work was five exceptionally crisp dollar bills, neatly tucked away in the packet. Sweet. Not only could we shape a nation in our own image, we’d have change to buy a couple ice creams afterwards to celebrate our successes.

Eagerly, we sat down to begin our important task of influencing the masses. At first things went well. Some cigarette-wielding Bourdain, a hefty dose of Stewart and Colbert snark and hah, not one singing and dancing competition graced our screen. America’s intellectual reform had begun splendidly. Smugly, we congratulated ourselves and riffed through our dollar bills–dreaming of those well deserved ice creams.

Quickly reality set in.

“I’m not sure we should watch Honey Boo Boo now,” I explained to my wife. “That will have to go in the book, and that can’t go into the book can it?” I immediately pondered the book being transcribed onto some permanent record. At some juncture in our future, maybe during a mortgage application process, what if these notes resurfaced, “Sir, it says here on June 14, 2014 you spent five hours flipping between My Strange Addiction and Gator Boys, before proceeding to spend the remainder of your evening watching Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. Oh, and Sharknado sir, that’s just not ok, not even ironically. We’ll have to say no today on your loan.”

The book came to take on almost biblical proportions, each entry a chiseled line in a stone tablet, that would surely echo down through the ages. Should we have the temerity to turn on the TV, our lives were under instant scrutiny, every channel flip an epically loaded selection. Faced with such overwhelming expectations and potential judgement, our noble intentions folded. The book became littered with various cities appended by ‘Real housewives of”. Jack Bauer, Jwow and Pat Sajak would now have to serve as America’s cultural and thought leaders.

Our empire building was in tatters. Mind you, we we’re still five dollars richer.

At The Utah Review we don’t have a booklet to take your opinions, we certainly don’t have five pristine dollar bills for you–and I’m pretty sure we lost our pen too. But we’d still love to know what you think about our online magazine.

What elements do you like, what not so much, and are there any we outright missed? We’re always looking to improve and expand our coverage. And don’t worry, we don’t wield the nation shaping power of Nielsen, but we do want to bring you the very best of your Utah–and your input into what matters most is massively important to us.

You can reach us via comments on this post, or on any of our social networks. If you’d rather your opinions stay private you can always email us at too.

While we wait on your input, I’m going back to a marathon viewing session of CBS’ Two Broke Girls.

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