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Network Decay / In Universe Examples

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Note: Examples are categorized according to the networks the listed works are making fun of.
  • Two banned episodes of The Boondocks (you can watch 'em on DVD) bash BET's decay for all it's worth. The irony here is that the Executive Producer "Reginald Hudlin" in the credits is the same one who currently runs BET. Contractual obligations keep his name on it, but series creator Aaron McGruder has made his stance on the network clear. "Martin Luther King Jr." called out the network in one episode, and shortly afterwards, the former president of the network killed himself.

Cartoon Network


Discovery Channel

  • A Robot Chicken sketch featuring The Wild Thornberrys has the Discovery Channel threaten to stop showing Nigel Thornberry's documentaries, unless he conforms to their "philosophical shift" towards shows that rely more on shock value than on educational content. Cue footage of the "Wild as F***" Thornberrys sky-diving and lion-hunting naked, then eating tarantulas, before Eliza enters an Interspecies Marriage with Darwin. When the executive comes to a My God, What Have I Done? conclusion, he leaps out the window to his death. Nigel promptly films it.
    Nigel: Now that's wild as f***!


  • The song "E.S.P.N." by Max DeGroot decries the channel showing documentaries and news about athletes more than actual games.
  • Dodgeball depicts the Worldwide Leader as having so many channels, that they had to devote one of them (ESPN8) to airing competitions that are "almost a sport".

Fictional Networks

  • UBS, the TV station from Network, which shifts from a regular channel to a sensationalist channel, complete with a Reality Show following the steps of a guerrila group.
  • An episode of Garfield and Friends has Garfield watching a game show called "Hit The Buzzer, Win A Cookie!", to which Garfield quips "And this is on the educational channel."
  • In the Robotech Expanded Universe novel The Zentraedi Rebellion, Minmei's managers have started a satellite network for Zentraedi-related programming (which mostly means Minmei music), and Minmei has a combination music program and talk show on it where Zentraedi viewers call in, request music, and occasionally rant about the deteriorating political situation. Her managers soon try to turn it into a variety show and have some human special guests show up to boost ratings (from the human viewership), but Minmei stands firm; she's doing the show and the Lorelei Network because it's focused on the Zentraedi audience, and if the executives want to have special guests commenting on current events, they'll have to be Zentraedi guests.


  • The Simpsons: In a Flash Forward episode set in 2010, Marge comments that the FOX TV network had switched to hardcore porn so gradually she never even noticed.

G4 / Tech TV

  • In Episode 12.5 (DTV Pitch) of Berserk Abridged, when Zodd mentioned specialty cable networks being good at the start, then going downhill quickly when they lose their focus, using G4 as an example.
    Zodd: Don't you think we can do a little better than DTV?
    Phil: Why, what's wrong with DTV? It's television for demons, we're demons — it's perfect.
    Zodd: Yeah, but you know how these specialty cable networks are: they start out real good, but then they lose their focus and things go downhill real quick. Just look at what happened to G4!


  • In the Family Guy humor book Stewie's Guide to World Domination, the section "Why MTV Is the Root of All Evil", has Stewie Griffin lashing out on MTV.
    "There's no bloody music on the network anymore! Yes, I'm aware this is an age-old complaint, but the word 'music' is right there in the name of the channel, you loathsome cretins. At the very least, stop being disingenuous and just go ahead change the name of the network from MTV to Road Rules-Pimp My Ride-and-Intoxicated-College-Students-Doing-Disgusting-Stunts-for-No-Pay-but-Rather-Because-Someone-Shoved-a-Camera-in-Their-Faces TV."
  • Lyrics for the Bowling for Soup song "1985" include: "There was U2, and Blondie, and music still on MTV..."
  • The subject of the Portlandia episode "Take Back MTV". Spyke and Iris are upset that MTV is not like it used to be, so they hire the real Kurt Loder, Tabitha Soren, and Matt Pinfield to storm MTV headquarters. Spyke and Iris break into the office of MTV's president (who turns out to be an adolescent girl), while the other three take over the main airway. As it turns out, there isn't much of a market for a Nostalgia Filter-oriented channel devoted to aging Gen-Xers reliving their Glory Days, and people soon start tuning out.note 
  • On Fuse, a channel similar to MTV, they often made jokes about this, though without actually saying "MTV". Became Hilarious in Hindsight when the same thing happened to Fuse (albeit only temporarily).
  • The reactions to MTV's decay are mocked in this Brian & Maria skit featured on Cracked, where a twentysomething woman who grew up watching MTV asks one of their executives why they stopped playing music videos in favor of reality shows about vapid celebrities whose only accomplishments all involve starring on reality shows. He gives her the gods-honest truth with Brutal Honesty: her generation was the one that stopped buying albums in favor of iTunes, streaming, and piracy, thus destroying much of the reason for flashy music videos and, by extension, MTV's old format to exist. Furthermore, even if they did play music videos today, they'd be playing the same crappy pop music as the radio stations do, not the nostalgic hits of the '80s and '90s. And the kicker? The complaint that MTV doesn't play music anymore is now legally old enough to drive, so the fact that millennials are making this complaint is a sign that they are getting old.
  • The Simpsons: One of Bart's chalkboard gags is "I no longer want my MTV."
  • This episode of Jimquisition, while discussing the prevalence of this trope in online media (specifically games journalism outlets covering Game of Thrones, a TV series with little connection to video games beyond overlap in its geek fandom), brings up MTV as a comparison in the second half of the episode. He finds it appropriate that the very first video they played was "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles given how the same process later happened to them when the internet wound up killing the video star, and says that the Network Decay of MTV and other cable networks (also bringing up the History Channel and TLC) was a natural consequence of cable television growing bigger and facing new competition online; niche channels like MTV had to diversify their content in order to hold onto their viewers against their competitors, even if it meant forgetting the original mission of the network.

The History Channel

  • Parodied by South Park in the episode "A History Channel Thanksgiving", when the boys (except Kyle, at first) believe that aliens were involved in the original Thanksgiving after watching a "special" on the channel.
  • Mocked in a Jimmy Kimmel Live! comedy short:
    "This weekend on The History Channel, someone digs through old plastic junk ("It's a Dukes of Hazzard wastebasket!"), someone else tries to sell a doll head ("I used to take the heads off the bodies, and I kept the heads")... and Larry the Cable Guy taste-tests Tabasco sauce ("I can't feel my dadgum tongue!"). The History Channel. What the hell happened to us?"
  • Gravity Falls takes a shot at them in "Northwest Mansion Mystery". In an early scene, Dipper prepares to watch a marathon of a ghost-hunting show called Ghost Harassers on "The Used To Be About History Channel".
    • Said shot also counts as Biting-the-Hand Humor in a way — Disney owns half of History via A&E (Hearst owns the other half).
  • Its sister channels are not immune from this, either; on an episode of The Simpsons, Homer watches Topiary Wars before Marge turns the TV off, making him feel relieved:
    "Ugh. Thank you! Why was that on the Military History Channel?"


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