Monday, March 25, 2013


Total Lack of Thought For the Day: Cristina Odone Vs TV Ratings and Truth

Religious spin-doctor Cristina Odone has today used what she calls “a huge hit”, US TV mini-series The Bible, to attack the BBC, secularism and, basically, the whole 21st Century. Her propagandaggrandisement in today’s Daily Telegraph, the journal of pre-Enlightenment fantasy, rests on the twin absurdities that 13 million US viewers is “a huge triumph” and tells us anything about British religion or TV viewing.

Ms Odone’s bigging-up of the so-called “History” Channel ignores three important facts.

First, though she claims the BBC ignores religion, in fact the money of all licence-fee-payers by law has to pay for making religious programmes. By choice, happily, almost none of us watch them.

Second, she fails to mention that by any measure you like – church attendance, church buildings, opinion polls of belief – the USA is vastly more religious, and even more vastly Christian, than any country in Europe except the Vatican, and certainly has a wildly different religious make-up to the UK. Despite our having an established Church, again by law. It seems that on two for two, Ms Odone’s demand for people to be forced into religion in law not only irks the silent majority of us who the screaming zealots seize cash from and boss about, but it’s clearly doing no good for religion, either. So perhaps she should pause in her authoritarian diktat that the US so-called “History” Channel’s Bible series should be “compulsory” here, in schools, on the BBC, and presumably by strapping every viewer to A Clockwork Orange-style eye-restraining chairs.
Before introducing the third and most absurdly abused fact that will fisk Ms Odone on her own shaky ground, I should point out that I do not believe TV ratings to be any guarantee of quality, just as I do not believe majorities should be able to push around minorities (or, in this case, vice versa), even when by her own argument we should ignore the Godly Torygraph’s tiny readership in favour of the Satanic BBC’s many millions, causing her entire vindictive rant to disappear in a puff of logic. But as Ms Odone wants to command her beliefs to be “compulsory”, and as she’s using the dubious testament of television ratings as her foundation, this is the appropriate ground around which to march to bring her ludicrous fabrication tumbling down.
Third, like any good spin-doctor Ms Odone cherry-picks the top viewing figure of 13 million for one “huge hit” episode (not telling us how far ratings have dropped since then) for the so-called “History” Channel’s Bible-story mini-series, just as the programme itself cherry-picks only the most popular bits of the Bible. She exalts this, again in her words, “huge triumph” to disprove the spooky, invisible US atheist conspiracy which televangelists and the lunatic far right make up stories of to raise so many millions. And yet, it surprises me by suggesting that, against all other evidence, perhaps big-budget Christianity in the USA isn’t looking that healthy after all…

The Facts – Ms Odone, Look Away Now (oh, she already has)

The USA is a country of 316 million people (I’m doing Ms Odone the favour of assuming that her pet series’ top rating only included the USA and not world-wide ratings, though as with all her ‘facts’, she isn’t clear). 13 million viewers is a “huge triumph” of, er, just 4.11% of the population. Ms Odone will no doubt tell you that’s an overwhelming majority. That doesn’t mean you should believe her.

By way of one simple factual comparison, the UK is a country of 61 million people. Cherry-picking one huge hit episode, Doctor Who – Voyage of the Damned (guest-starring Kylie Minogue), that was watched by 13.3 million people in the UK alone. That’s 21.11% of the population.

Much as I love it, Doctor Who is not my religion. In my view, it would be absurd and wrong to suggest on the basis of this factual like-for-like comparison that Doctor Who (or Kylie) is far more important than the Bible to the people of the UK, let alone extrapolate that Doctor Who – were it not for the evil conspiracy against it by US TV – is really, deep down, five times as big for the US population as Christianity.

Yet that absurd nonsense is exactly the way that Cristina Odone has extrapolated US viewing figures to scream that everyone in the UK should be ‘compulsorily’ bossed about. It seems that while UK schools’ compulsory religion does no good for most of us, sadly UK schools’ compulsory maths lessons did even less good for Ms ‘Dunce’ Odone.

Of course, it’s unthinkable that she knows that what she’s saying is a nasty, cynical lie to justify her outrageous authoritarianism, because, after all, she mentions the Ten Commandments. Though she claims no-one knows them any more, I do. And “Thou shalt not bear false witness” is one Ms Odone should know, too.

Ms Odone will no doubt point, scream and call for me to be burnt – ‘compulsorily’ – as I’ve just noticed that, as luck would have it, this is my 666th blog post on here.

Update: I’ve been fact-checked in an especially embarrassing way for a chap who bristles every time people misspell my own name. I apologise to Ms Odone for my mistake, and have corrected her Christian name from “Christina” to Cristina each time I used it.

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I'm loving the review in the Grauniad: "A cast so wooden, Jesus could have made a table out of them."

And hilariously, the producer ("it's a calling") appears to have cast herself as the Virgin Mary(!).

But some facts:

Contextually, 13.1 million is actually quite good (especially for a cable channel like History). Wikipedia suggests that the current top shows in the US (mainly "American Idol", godhelpus) pull c.20 million viewers on average.

Of course that "on average" is significant, because, as you picked up, that 13.1 million viewers quoted is actually for the season premier, falling off to 10.8, 10.9 in weeks 2 and 3.

That said, "The Bible" does appear to have beaten everything else on the night, e.g. it beat Trump's "Apprentice" pretty resoundingly. Though not "America Idol" 'cos it's not on the same night. ("The Bible" premiered March 3; nearest comparable episodes of "American Idol" are Feb 27/Feb 28 13.3/12.56 or March 5/6 11.72/12.84 – ironic dip in ratings, so "The Bible" beat it in that week - but it goes back up to 13.12/13.44 the following week, while "The Bible" went down. "AI" can probably rest comfortable though: THEIR season Premier on 16 Jan rated 17.93 million viewers.)

But in absolute terms it's not approaching impressive. M*A*S*H's top episode drew 106 million viewers. THAT'S impressive. Godless "Dallas" pulled 33 million; science-ish "Star Trek TNG" peaked at almost 28 million. Hell, "Will & Grace" got 18 millions so by THAT argument Ms Odone should be insisting we have compulsory gay sitcoms on the Beeb more often than religious programming 3:2.

With 13 million viewers, "The Bible" is coming in (with devastating aptness) between "Touched by an Angel" and "The X Files".
111 million for the 2011 Super Bowl. 106.5 for 2010. Wikipedia is a bit rubbish on this, but the Super Bowl has beaten the MASH finale three times.
Thank you, Millennium, and Richard(s), too. I'll give her that the premiere, before falling later, was something of a hit by current standards - which appears to be that nothing is. Even though she made false claims about beating other shows, too.

Excellent historical context, both of you.

Incidentally, readers, I'm quite pleased by making up "Propagandaggrandisement". If any of you'd like to use it, spread the word!
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