ROSSLYN, VA—In a move considered inevitable by cable-industry insiders, The Learning Channel announced Monday its decision to give up attempts to package educational material for the commercial television market. Beginning July 15, the network will switch over to an "All-Gilligan" format.
"To hell with learning," said Mark Almond, head of programming for the struggling network at a press conference announcing the changeover. "I mean, who were we kidding? A commercial station with programming that focuses exclusively on educational topics? Who wants to sit home and watch a bunch of penguins laying eggs or some crap like that? Gee, that should really pull in the ratings."
"Christ!" Almond added. "Who needs it?"
According to a network press release, under TLC's new format, viewers will enjoy 24-hour Gilligan availability.
"Beginning July 15 on The Learning Channel, there will be Gilligan, and the Skipper, too, as well as the millionaire and his wife," read the press release for the new format, which is being heavily promoted by TLC with the new catch-phrase, "Learning? Pfft!"
The format switch is considered the most significant cable-industry retooling since The History Channel adopted its current all-Hitler format in 1994.
TLC officials say that many new programming formats were considered by the network before the decision to go all-Gilligan, including: all-Danza, all-psychic, all-Manimal, and all-spandex aerobic crotch thrusting.
"We opted for the Gilligan-centered programming strategy after research indicated that there was no other show--whether sitcom, game show, drama, cartoon, musical-variety, or anything else--that required less intelligence to watch and comprehend," vice-president of programming Bob Hile said.
Plovis-area nine-year-old Timmy McWimmy, a member of TLC's new target demographic, was pleased with the announcement.
"It's funny how they can't get off the island. When Gilligan tries to get off the island he always messes up, and then they have to stay," McWimmy said, moments before spilling a popsicle on himself.
Sub-literate pre-teens, however, are not the only demographic group the all-Gilligan format targets.
"The widely varied cast of characters presents us with many opportunities for broad-based market penetration," TLC sales director Martin Vogler said. "The presence of Ginger, the movie star, provides the kind of sex appeal for adult male viewers that our learning-directed programming sorely lacked. Also, the wholesome Mary Ann draws viewership among mothers between 30 and 55; the Howells will attract high-income 55- to 70-year-olds, and the presence of the Professor ensures that there will still be enough science-based content for us to retain our old viewers who might still be interested in learning."
The fact that most Americans have already seen and memorized every episode of the critically panned mid-'60s sitcom is "of little to no concern," TLC executives said.
"Studies show that easy recognizability of deeply ingrained icons plays a greater role in positive viewer response to a program than does the desire to follow an unfamiliar narrative," Vogler said.