Scanning the top 20 prime-time series among adults age 18 to 54, only "Monday Night Football," "The X-Files" and "The Simpsons" draw a higher percentage of men than women.
Blame nature or nurturing, but this disparity begins at an early age. Fox has announced plans for separate cable services catering to boys and girls, continuing the steady march toward the day when we have channels dedicated to every conceivable group, from "Beautiful Teenagers With Problems" ("All 'Dawson's Creek,' all the time") to "Guys Named Bob."
Fortunately for the networks, women outnumber men. Nielsen estimates the population of women 18 and older at nearly 102 million, compared to 93.4 million men. Still, programs must attract a portion of the male audience to become a breakout hit of "ER," "Friends" or "Home Improvement's" magnitude.
The irony is that despite major inroads by women in power positions, the TV executives plagued by male viewing patterns (not to be confused with male-pattern baldness, another source of vexation) remain predominantly men. Middle-aged men thus find themselves trying to decipher what women want to see.
The same holds true for most of the TV critics touting "Ally McBeal" and "Felicity," series whose primary audience is generally composed of young women and girls. (Sitting through as much television as they do, critics actually share more in common with laboratory mice than any particular age group or gender.)
Television would improve if this rebuke had some effect on men, but why kid ourselves? The average guy reading this probably got antsy and flipped to another column 12 paragraphs ago. Heck, any man deserving of the name has finished two other sections by now, assuming he wasn't sidetracked by department store lingerie ads along the way.