When times are tough, Americans don't want television that makes you "think." They want television that's predictable, television that reruns the same god damn stories week after week with absolutely no sense of drama or uncertainty. Because who wants more uncertainty, in these uncertain days? This is why CBS—old, stuffy, worthless CBS—is now the best-rated television network of the fall season, may god have mercy on our souls. Too bad Sumner Redstone can't make any money off it, though! CBS hasn't done this well any time since 1987, before reality TV was invented.

Apparently, what is good for CBS is a bad economy. CBS’s lineup of police procedurals, where the criminals always get caught, and sitcoms that are reliably funny in unchallenging ways, seems to be becoming a safe haven for viewers worried about jobs and mortgages. “When the road gets rocky, the center is the best place to be,” said Kelly Kahl, the chief scheduler for CBS. “It’s kind of a cliché,” Mr. Moonves said, “on CBS the good guys win.” Or as Mr. Kahl put it, “We give people what they want.”

What people want is the television equivalent of porridge: it fills you up without flavor, and it was beloved by uneducated peasants. That should be good news for old mogul Sumner Redstone, who controls CBS and Viacom through his holding company, National Amusements. So why is he having so many money troubles at the moment? Well, besides the ton of money he lost in the current Wall Street crisis and whatever he'll have to pay to his now-ex-wife, it turns out that Redstone has lost hundreds of millions of dollars trying to prop up—wait for it—the maker of "Mortal Kombat."

Midway, which is best known for the 1990s arcade game Mortal Kombat, has eaten up a lot of quarters without much return. Midway has not reported a profit since the second quarter of fiscal 2000, and over the last three full fiscal years the company has lost $258.9 million. Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Morgan Securities, estimated that Mr. Redstone has spent $500 million to $700 million on Midway shares since 1983.

Ha. Sumner, I will tell you all about video games for a mere one million dollars. [NYT, NYT]