About a year and a half ago, a woman knocked on our apartment door and asked me a question I never expected to hear: would you be interested in being a Nielsen family? Thought about it for a bit, chatted it over with Amy, and a couple of weeks later we watched a couple of technicians spend a couple of hours wiring up our apartment to measure what we watched, listened to, watched without listening to, and so on. We were also told not to tell anyone that we were a Nielsen family, unless we had people over; then we were asked to input their information into one of the boxes installed on the tv.

We mostly did what they asked--the information might have slipped out a few times at parties--but no one ever approached us offering big bucks to watch their show. That would have been nice.

I'm sad to say that, barring some incredible coincidence, the following shows will probably lose a blip of ratings numbers: Democracy Now!, Antiques Road Show, Nova, Frontline, Eureka, Doctor Who, reruns of Star Trek Voyager (when they're on), Lucy Daughter of the Devil, and maybe It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Mythbusters, Leverage, and Pardon the Interruption. Those last four are popular enough that I figure there's a chance they'll keep getting the ratings points.

American Idol might pick up a blip, as will pretty much anything on prime time broadcast network television since we haven't watched that in years. Cable news might get a hit, since we only had CNN and Fox News (and the latter was added to our satellite package after we'd bought it) and I refuse to watch any of them. I get the Olbermann and Maddow podcasts since we don't have MSNBC. I'd say C-SPAN will lose some viewers, but Nielsen doesn't meter them since there's no advertising on the channel. (That might also be the case for PBS as well, which might make us the lamest Nielsen family ever given the list above.) That probably did wonders for their numbers during the election season last year since we watched everything on C-SPAN, from debates to inaugural coverage.

I have to admit, I'm kind of glad my meager contribution to the measurement of American taste in television is coming to an end, and I think Amy is too. It's not a weighty responsibility or anything--it's just television ad rates, after all--and I know I didn't have anything to do with the rise of Two and a Half Men or whatever is the top-rated sitcom these days. But it does start to wear on you after a while.

They measure what you watch and, if you have a DVR, what you record, and they know if you don't watch it, so all those back episodes of Bill Moyers Journal haunt me whenever I push the button to see what I have recorded. The Daily Show almost never gets backed up, but I recorded The Number One Ladies Detective Agency weeks ago and have still only watched the first episode. And I wanted Generation Kill to get more attention than it did, but I fell down on the job there too. I'm still going to watch it one day, but now no one will know.

I guess I could start a twitter feed and tell even more people.

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