The Old, Hard Truth About Washington-Based Series

Kiefer Sutherland is not getting any younger, and neither is the audience for Fox's oldest-skewing program.
Kiefer Sutherland is not getting any younger, and neither is the audience for Fox's oldest-skewing program. (By Isabella Vosmikova)
By Lisa de Moraes
Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Scripted TV series that attract older viewers mostly have one thing in common.

Washington.

On each of the major broadcast networks last season, the scripted series with the oldest median age were set in the capital.

Median age is the point at which half the audience is younger and half is older, explains Magna Global USA, the ad-buying company that conducted the annual study of median viewer ages for broadcast series.

Oldest median age is relevant in an industry that worships youth because it generally means the crew and cast should start looking for their next jobs.

And a Washington setting seems to be something of a buzz kill for younger viewers.

People here may look around at all the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed interns and think, "What a young people's town Washington is!" but in the real world, where people mostly get their impressions of Washington from television, D.C. = old.

"Because old people are politicians," explained an exec at one network, and shows about politicians, he assured us, "are the least appealing . . . to young people."

It's true enough -- many of these shows are about politics.

For instance, ABC's scripted series with the oldest median age last season was "Commander in Chief," starring Geena Davis as the running mate/publicity stunt turned POTUS. Median age: 55 years. Bye-bye.

NBC's OMA scripted series? "The West Wing" tied with "E-Ring." Set at: White House and Pentagon, respectively. Median age: 54. See ya.

But not all of these Washington-set series are about politics.


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