...AND MARKING OUT
The Same Thing We Do EVERY Night, Pinky...
There has been a ton of debate surrounding the WWF product lately. How it's stale. How it's been predictable. How it just seems as if the WWF is following a formula which we, the viewers are beginning to really tire of seeing. That the WWF uses a formula in it's television programming can not be denied. Most broadcasts follow a predictable pattern week in and week out:
15 Interview Segment (usually setting up a match later in the show)
Mid-Point Main Event
15 Minute Segment #2
With the exception of the occasional deviation, this is what today's WWF viewers can expect out of their weekly doses of RAW and SmackDown!
And I hear you thinking, "Yeah, and that's why it sucks."
To which I say, "Not entirely."
Even though the formula hasn't really changed, WWF television has been noticeably better for the past three shows, dating back to the October 8th edition of RAW. If it's not the formula, why then, is the show still a little better? My theory is that viewers/smarks/marks, whatever you want to call us, weren't truly focusing on the real problem when we were complaining over the past few weeks. And the real problem is not the formula. You see, lost in this debate over what's gone wrong with the WWF formula is the fact that formulas work.
All television programming follows a strict formula for each and every show. Most shows, I dare say, use the same formula over and over again to the delight of their viewers. Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Practice, E.R., The West Wing, The Young and The Restless - all these shows use a basic formula. Furthermore, shows in the same genre tend to use the same formula or a basic twist of the same formula. It's no coincidence that Tomb Raider, Buffy, Alias, and Dark Angel all have hot, strong, beautiful women as their leading characters and are all ratings success stories. Somebody discovered that this particular formula works and everyone else is following suit. Every show I can think of has a set formula for how its stories and plots are woven around the same set of characters on a weekly basis without fail, from soap operas, romantic comedies, and action series, to hospital-, political- and crime-based dramas. They all follow a tried and true blueprint for success. We should expect no different from WWF television.
So I say to you that it isn't entirely the WWF formula that is at fault. Nope. The formula is like the engine, with the show itself being the car, and high ratings being the destination. Even the newest cars need to be given the proper fuel and oil to function. If you don't put the right lubrication on those pistons and the right unleaded octane in the tank, that car isn't going to run well no matter what it looks like. But, if you change your oil every 3000 miles and put that high octane fuel in the gas tank, you are almost guaranteed to get longevity out of your vehicle, and increase customer satisfaction and the number of repeat buyers. The engine runs only as well as what's put into to it.
The same things hold true of the WWF television formula. Interview segments work when the mic work is compelling and helps to drive the storylines. Same goes for backstage vignettes. Feuds work when they pay-off with creative wrestling displays. Those tag matches that allow PPV opponents to square off without totally giving away the PPV match can work as well, when they have a purpose. Every match, every interview, every moment of WWF television should in someway drive the viewer to watch the next show, tell a friend how good the show was if he or she missed it, and buy the upcoming PPV. If there is anything-be it a match (or sometimes matches), an interview segment, or a backstage vignette-- that is on television for no other purpose than to either give wrestler A some television time or sooth his/her ego without any consideration of the overall goals of the television programming, then the show doesn't click, viewers aren't entertained, the formula appears to get old and tired, and ratings falter.
Pointless matches, skits, and recaps are like the wrong grade of oil in a V-Tech engine. It's like putting in 87 Octane in your gas tank when you need 93. All it does is damage the engine and eventually render the car useless. You'll never get to your destination that way. The results can only be as good as the numbers plugged into the formula. It's not just the formula in and of itself, but also what you put into it that counts as well.
Cars can't run on water. PPVs can't sell off of meaningless matches and feuds without intrigue. Put excitement, intrigue, and compelling, thought-provoking nuances into the show's formula, and you'll get to higher ratings. There's simply no other way. You can't bypass the formula. It's there all the time. You simply have to put in the right ingredients. You can't make chicken salad out of chicken shit.
Or as we computer geeks sometimes say: Garbage in, garbage out.
Until next time, send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org