Monday, July 16, 2007

Notes on TV Haters

Is TV hypnotizing you? That's your own fault!

I can't help feeling that Blogger doesn't offer a spot in the profile for favorite TV shows because it's beneath our notion of what's "smart." With that in mind, here are some notes on TV haters that I've met.

1. Most of them don't watch TV.

My own father said to me recently that "cable has no redeeming value." He's never even watched cable! Oh wait, that's not true - I once caught him watching a bowdlerized TBS rerun of Sex and the City (so weird). And a lot of people who talk about how stupid television is have never even owned one or stopped watching after going to college (why? because Nietzsche didn't have TV so neither should they?)

2. The ones who do watch TV judge it by what's on VH1.

Too many TV haters see television as a giant, multi-faceted program, not as a medium, which is all it is. There's the good and the bad. The difference is that everything produced is readily available for consumption. But just think, if every song or movie or piece of art were on the radio or television, we wouldn't have very high opinions of those artforms either. And as for shows like Flavor of Love, they ain't pretty, but aren't they at the very least fascinating for what they show about our culture?

My favorite are the people who say that TV is stupid but have absolutely horrible taste. One girl I worked with claimed that TV rots the brain (it apparently had rotted hers), but then named the one exception: Entourage. Entourage? Really?!? A featherweight comedy with no moral compass about aimless philistines in Hollywood? I guess it's entertaining once in a while, but that's a pretty lame example of "good" television.

3. They're conservative.

A lot of TV haters can't accept how truly new television is. By "television" I obviously don't mean electrons shooting from a screen or the concept of a filmed serial, but that we are in a golden age (some call it a renaissance, but when has it ever been this good? Mary Tyler Moore is hardly a match for Lucille Bluth). And it isn't just gritty shows like The Wire on premium cable either (Friday Night Lights! NBC!).

Some TV haters really do seem to hate the idea of synchronized experience - they're okay with being out of touch; they think watching a show is somehow less personal than being buried in a book or in a dark room with flashing celluloid. It's not exclusive enough. Thank God.

4. They're pseudo-intellectual.

"I don't watch TV, I watch Almodovar!" Give me a break.

5. They don't seem to really care about characters.

TV dramas demand that you go in not just for a fast and furious experience like Children of Men, but stay with the characters through thick and thin, week after week (and hopefully, year after year). While TV shows do tend to have more mass commercial appeal overall, they are also more daring in this way -- everyone on the set of a movie knows how the story will be resolved. Except in miniseries, there's no safety net in television.

Another paradox I notice among TV haters is that while they see film as "art" and TV as "entertainment," many of them go to films simply as a "break" between work and obligations -- as a recreational activity, not an artistic endeavor.

Final thought (a la television icon Jerry Springer) -

People wouldn't have had to spend their money on any of Michael Moore's films if they just saw the countless PBS documentaries that have explored the same topics less patronizingly and tendentiously.

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