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Counterpunch

It's High Time a Channel Targets Women of the '90s

July 25, 1994|JOAN PETERS | Joan Peters hosts and produces "The Joan Peters Show," a public access television support group for people like herself who are struggling with their weight. The show airs on West Valley CableVision Fridays at 9 p.m. and at different times on Century Cable and Beverly Hills TV. She has a Master of Fine Arts degree from UCLA in Motion Picture/Television Screenwriting

If men invented television, it was the women who were at home watching it--certainly during the daytime hours in the '50s when the majority of mothers were supposedly baking cakes and taking care of the kiddies. It was not until the '80s (thanks to Phil Donahue, Oprah Winfrey, Sally Jessy Raphael and a slew of other talk show personae), that we discovered that dear old mom was, excuse the catchall phrase, "dysfunctional." The poor woman was either drinking herself into a tizzy, having a nervous breakdown or cheating on that knight in shining armor that she married, the workaholic dad.

You remember that out-of- touch man who left the house in the A.M. to return late in the P.M. having as little interaction with his children as possible. The "emotionally distant dad" is the way psychologists explain him on talk shows, or the "absent father"--the guy who went out to buy a pack of cigarettes and returned 20 years later when the kids were grown--or if dad was close, then he was too close. He molested his children and threatened to kill the family dog if anyone snitched.

Yes, thanks to talk shows we all now know that there was no escaping the "truth"--we all grew up in dysfunctional families. But the people who knew it first were women. Why? Because before women were into equality and working outside the home, they had seemingly fewer places to go outside of the grocery store, the park with the kids or the mall. Many women turned to television for their daily dose of entertainment and escape. Women didn't hear it through the grapevine; they saw it on TV.

So what could be more appropriate for the '90s than a women's channel? Lifetime cable-TV network came up with this gem--a women's targeted audience. ("All Things to All Women?" Calendar, June 4).

If I am at all indicative of women audiences, I'm going to have my television or VCR tuned into Lifetime. Women have always been the mainstream of television viewers. They are hungry for a network of their own, targeted at their own interest. Lifetime is smart to offer a smorgasbord of women-targeted programs. When this TV network starts churning out hits, and it eventually will, it's going to set the whole television industry spinning on its heels. Want to bet the networks and syndicates will all be scrambling to rethink their programming?

My only question is what has taken the powers that be in television so long to figure out a women's-targeted channel?

*

As a woman, I am part of that "51% of the country" that Lifetime programming Vice President Peggy Allen was referring to when she said: "You can't do one kind of programming for them. We have to reflect the diversity of women's interests."

That diversity is precisely what ultimately is going to set Lifetime apart from its competition and put it on the cutting edge.

Conventional talk shows normally cover a garden variety of subjects throughout the week. Lifetime is redefining the talk-show format by breaking with tradition and zeroing in on talk shows that focus on specific themes. Normally these very types of programs are rejected, mistakenly perceived as having too limited an audience appeal.

Lifetime should be applauded for catering to more diverse women's programming, for their innovation and risk taking--but most of all, Lifetime should be commended for its mature understanding that, although a program may indeed hold a more limited audience appeal, there still may be a real need in the lives of their viewing audience for just such a show.

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