Vince Commisso, 9Story – Where Have All the 10-Year Old Boys Gone?

Not that this is a startling revelation to anyone, but it seems like 10-year-old boys don’t like TV very much these days.

And, of course, there are many theories going around that try to explain why, most having to do with the proliferation of gaming, interactive web content and social networking (though this appeals to both genders). In fact, most of us, the professionals in the children¹s production and broadcasting business, operate under the assumption that traditional boys¹ fare – action-adventure shows – no longer work because boys have a plethora of high-quality, immersive off-broadcast opportunities readily available.

So, we’re done, right? Let¹s all of us in the TV biz wave a collective bye-bye to the 10-year-old little fellas from inside the flat panel as they leave the room (good thing the screens are getting bigger, huh?). I mean, if they don¹t like the cartoon action stuff, what else is there?

But, before I started practising my group wave pose, I thought I’d try something radical and very unscientific. I asked a bunch of 9-to-12-year-old boys what their five favorite TV shows are. That’s it. Simple. Just give me a list of one to five. Off the top of your head, write it down, scribble it on my forearm Š any way you want to tell me is good.

After asking about 20 kids, I stopped and took an aspirin. This turned out to be more trouble than I thought. Their responses were all over the place and the delivery even more so! While clearly much of what I got back wasn’t of benefit, there did seem to be some common threads among the responses.

First, most of the boys couldn¹t get to five shows. Many, in fact, said there was nothing on TV that they liked. They watched when either their sisters or their parents had control of the remotes. Now, this is a far cry from how things were when I was a 12-year-old. At a minimum, we must shed a tear for current, but soon-to-be extinct, stereotype of the middle aged man, the image of a balding and softening 40+ male, a remote in hand, couch tattooed to hind parts. This poor slob has no chance to revel in this blissful existence without the requisite training during the formative years?

Second, I found out that most boys liked shows about them, their lives, and things they can relate to. Shows that are funny, but not ‘kid’ humour. That¹s a bit of a tricky one, but when pressing the young group for further clarification, the boys whose eyes didn’t gloss over and/or weren¹t suffering sugar crashes left me with the impression that the shows had to portray the lead boy characters actually accomplishing something. While shows had to be loaded with humour, the accomplishments had to be both realistic and meaningful, to represent things that were within the realm of possibility for boys, even if those possibilities are slight or fantastical. It seems that there is plenty of female-targeted fare of this variety, but not much for our mini-men.

Finally, the boys I spoke to didn¹t seem to know of many shows that reflect positively on the relationships they have in their lives. Boys hang with their dads and other older male role models more these days. They seem to want shows that reflect these relationships positively, with humour, but at no-one¹s expense. In other words, maybe the dad doesn¹t have to be such a dufus and is worthy of having a cool kid as a best friend, even if it is his son. It’s especially appealing, apparently, when the responsibilities in the relationship are shared, so the young one is on, or very close to, equal footing, with the dad. Now, I was getting somewhere.

When I pressed hard to have the group agree with me on these intensely deep conclusions, reached only after detailed questions and micro-analysis of each word of every response, whether delivered at Gatling-gun speed or in single grunts, twelve little men said they were really hungry, 3 had to go to the bathroom, 4 noted that it was a sunny day and said going outside would be fun, and one asked what video games I had. So there!

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