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A Very Long Disengagement

Mark Bauerlein

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Last spring Nielsen Media Research reported that the average college student watches 3 hours 41 minutes of television each day. "It was a little more than I expected," a Nielsen executive told a reporter, and a little more than professors care to see. But the networks have complained for years that young-adult programs attract more viewers than the ratings have previously indicated. Nielsen traditionally bases its count on household viewing, but many students watch TV shows in a different way, and the trend is growing.

The Wall Street Journal described one example: "Every Thursday night at the University of Colorado-Boulder, Theta Xi fraternity brothers and their friends cram into a common room for their favorite television show. It can be a tight squeeze, with as many as 40 people watching at a time.

"The big attraction is 'The O.C.,' Fox's soapy drama about the lives of teens in upscale Orange County, Calif."

The ritual is a common one on campuses today, and it has precursors. I remember it back in college in 1980, when the Luke and Laura affair on General Hospital caught on, and in the 90s when Friends lured into the lounges undergrads and, surprisingly, grads, too. Now, female students gather for airings of Friends spinoff Joey, while ESPN's SportsCenter pulls in massive numbers of twentysomething men.

Read the entire article on The Chronicle of Higher Education website (new window will open).

Posted: 08-Jan-06



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