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Why Old TV Shows Are Beating Hollywood’s Billion Dollar DEI Machine

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Even as streamers like Netflix, Amazon and Disney+ are spending almost incomprehensible amounts of money creating the movies and shows fueling the Peak TV wars, the numbers show audiences are turning down much of that content to watch old television shows instead.

A recent article noted that according to Nielsen, which tracks viewership numbers, “the most minutes last year – more than 57 billion – were spent watching ‘Suits,’ a legal drama which premiered 12 years prior.” The show had more than double the number of viewing minutes than Netflix’s race-swapping woke usurpation fantasy, “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story.”

The Hollywood Reporter noted the “top 10 overall titles in Nielsen’s year-end rankings are all acquired shows, the first time that’s happened in the four years streaming rankings have been publicly available.” Acquired means the library of older shows which Netflix bought after spending $17 billion on content, much of it on new shows like “Bridgerton” whose three seasons cost $168 million, only to lose to the estimated $200,000 per episode that it paid for “Suits”.

In 2023, more people were watching “NCIS” reruns than the top two streaming programs combined. And more are watching old episodes of “Friends” than either “Ted Lasso” or Star Wars’ “The Mandalorian” despite an estimated $120 million per season budget.



In 2022, Amazon had spent $500 million to buy the rights to Tolkien’s world in order to produce a woke multicultural version of “The Lord of the Rings”, but twice as many people watched “Seinfeld” reruns (not to mention “The Great British Baking Show”) as “The Rings of Power”.

After an unfathomable $238 billion in Peak TV spending that year, most viewers were comfortable dialing up old episodes of “NCIS”, “Criminal Minds”, “Gilmore Girls”, “Seinfeld”, “Supernatural”, “The Simpsons” and “Heartland”: a show about a horse ranch set in Canada.

The trend continues with Nielsen numbers for this week showing the old school shows Suits, NCIS and Grey’s Anatomy in the top 10.

The issue isn’t just “wokeness”. Apart from ‘Heartland’, the old shows which are popular now are not traditional or conservative, but they were generally popular in their own time. Some of the shows were made with a more male audience in mind, a demographic no longer serviced by the current streaming industry with rare exceptions like Amazon’s ‘Reacher’.

(‘Reacher’ now ranks as the number two series on streaming, vastly outperforming anything else on Amazon, suggesting that male audiences have been deprived of programming.)

But another issue is a radical demographic transformation in the industry which began with #MeToo and the BLM hate movement. Hollywood made DEI commitments and carried them out, whether it was locking the Oscars behind racial quotas for participating films or dumping white male talent in favor of affirmative action quotas.

Writers Guild of America numbers show 64% of staff writers had been men in 2011, but by 2020, only a third were men. 71% of staff writers had been white in 2011, but less than half were by 2020. Male story editors declined from 61% to 39% while white story editors fell from 79% to 39%. Professional talent at key points in the production chain likewise declined sharply.

By 2020, the number of white producers fell by 24%, the number of male producers by 25%, white co-producers fell by 30%, white supervising producers by 23%, white executive story editors fell by 26% and male executive editors by 27%. The numbers are likely worse now.

While you don’t need to be a white man to write, such a massive industry demographic turnover could not happen without bringing in a whole lot of unqualified personnel for the wrong reasons.

The demands of DEI and the need to produce massive amounts of new content for the streaming wars led to a hiring surge of writers, directors and other creative personnel who were not actually qualified. The impact of that is all around us.

Disney has lost a fortune on movies staffed by inexperienced DEI hires. “The Marvels”, its first comic book universe movie that didn’t even hit $100 million (amounting to likely losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars) was written and directed by Nia DaCosta, hailed as the first black woman to direct a superhero film, with one previous low budget horror film to her name. Her fellow writers had little more than a few episodes of Disney+ Marvel shows under their belts.

“Madame Web”, a recent effort to launch a Spider Man movie franchise without Spider Man, performed even worse for Sony. The movie was helmed by a TV director based on a screenplay originally written by an otherwise mostly unknown minority writer/director, and crashed badly.

The decline of animation quality at Disney has been chronicled in features like Film Threat’s D-Files which put it down to an urgent need to hire new diverse staff while purging the “old white guys” The new diverse hires “understood very little about actual animation and bringing art to life”, and “struggled to succeed at a job they weren’t qualified to have in the first place”. Their ineptitude was blamed on an intolerant workplace and the veterans were forced out.

Something similar has been going on across the industry and no one is allowed to talk about it.

When the editor-in-chief of The Hollywood Reporter proposed a story on how, “those white men who had spent decades writing scripts—which had been turned into blockbuster movies and hit television shows—were no longer getting hired”, he was intimidated into backing away from it.

That was one of the many stories documented in The Free Press‘ coverage which quoted multiple writers and producers, mostly anonymously, describing a DEI culture in which, “suddenly, every conversation with every agent or head of content started with: Is anyone BIPOC attached to this?” Multiple emails contained dismissals such as, “This one a dead end — they are going to limit search to women and bipoc candidates” and “Studio now telling us this job must go to a female / bipoc writer. Sorry — it sucks.”

“I’m all for LGBT and Native Americans, blacks, females, whatever minorities that have not been served correctly in the making of content, whether it’s television or movies or whatever, but I think it’s gone too far. I know a lot of very talented people that can’t get work because they’re not black, Native American, female or LGBTQ,” legendary Chinatown producer Howard Koch said.

Why are shows from the 1990s beating billion dollar projects at Netflix, Amazon and Disney?

One answer is that Hollywood purged or sidelined a lot of its own talent leading to productions which have ten times the cost of their old forebears, but are badly written, acted and directed. A $200 million fan film may make for an impressive trailer, but minute by minute still remain as fundamentally unprofessional as anything uploaded by a random amateur to YouTube.

The issue is not just wokeness onscreen, but wokeness behind the scenes. A lot of the old movies and shows were woke for the level of the time, but they were also competently written, directed and acted by some of the best talent which money could buy. That is no longer true.

Sam Goldwyn, an immigrant and former glove salesman who never learned to speak proper English, yet was responsible for some of the greatest films of the forties, had a simple formula. “You get yourself a great story. Then you get the best writer available. Then you get the best director. Then you hire a first-class cast, the right cast, and a great cameraman.” Not anymore.

Now you get a story that conveys an important socially relevant message about a minority group. Then you get an inexperienced writer from an oppressed group, a BIPOC director who has done nothing except four music videos, a TikTok BLM influencer as your star and a cameraman who is also the only white male on the set and prays all day not to be fired.

What did they know in the nineties and the thoughts whch no one seems to know today?

TV shows were ‘woke’ ten, twenty and thirty years ago, but the message was, except for some artsy projects, a subtle addition rather than the entire purpose of every single movie and show. Hollywood hypocritically pushed wokeness, but was careful about adopting and internalizing it. And while the upper ranks of Hollywood still mostly consist of white men, the creative talent was fed to the sharks leading to the likes of Disney’s Bob Iger overseeing a sinking DEI ship.

Last fall, Disney was being congratulated for landing Ahsoka, its latest woke Star Wars series, in the number two spot of original streaming shows, but it didn’t even break the top 10 overall. Disney had spent as much as $25 million an episode with more special effects than many movies only to lose to Suits: a show from 2011 with few effects and a budget of $3 million.

The audience had spoken.

Daniel Greenfield is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This article previously appeared at the Center’s Front Page Magazine.
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