Speed-roll the TV credits while split-screening a promo for things I'd rather do instead

Did you see the latest Daily Show, or Idol, or Lost? No (but love it), no (never), and no (huh?). The entire country could probably be divided into camps of unequal size: those who watch TV most nights and those who don't. Those who TV is a much larger and more heterogenous group, while those who don't are small and probably pretty similar to one another.

One of the odd things that's happened to me is that I've left the big camp for the small one. This is typically typical behavior for a contrarian like me, but in this case it's just odd. I'm a big fan of entertainment, especially books, movies and until recently, TV. I was raised in a home and community where TV watching was a big deal - it drove most of the cultural common knowledge. I was an outcast for not having cable by the mid 1980s. Guaranteed that 2-3 hours a night, we were TVing. And I've always thought of the nonTVers as snobby cold joykills who pushed things like Turn It Off Week.

Now, I have to disclose that I have satellite TV. Occasionally I'll watch one of the news stations, or football or catch a movie or something truly educational (remember when you could actually learn something on TechTV and TLC and Discovery and History?). And I am Netflixing TV shows that seem worthy like Angel, Firefly, Batman: the Animated Series and Curb Your Enthusiasm. But all of these DVDs are treated like movies rather than as TV. If something truly monumental comes off of network TV, I'll catch it on Netflix.

For one thing, I found less and less TV grabbing my attention. The quality of network TV has dropped like a rock, driven by budget constraints, studio monopolies and rabidness about ratings. Shows like Homicide, Seinfeld, Firefly, Quantum Leap, the Lazarus Man, and Star Trek just won't ever be made again. The really good ones like Freaks and Geeks and Sports Night all died pretty quick deaths. All the good stuff has moved to pay channels or to the movies. TV has become so formulaic, by design, that I've felt I've seen several of these shows before. You can almost do a flowchart of sitcoms: 26 minutes of: stupid man/smart woman, two stupid men, two smart/one dumb woman - then insert smartass joke #1284 or #5916 at time index 2:35. And police procedurals and lawyers waving briefcases at each other? Snooze.

What about reality TV shows? They are not new: they are 1950s prime time quiz shows combined with Jerry Springer tension and with all the genuine drama of pro wrestling. They will eventually devolve into actual voyeur video, mark my words. Jenna Jameson's American Porn Idol, brought to you by Coors and Fidelity Investments. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Is this because I'm older? There's probably some truth to that, although age doesn't seem to affect the TV fiends I grew up with. I have relatives a generation older than me who live in their TVs. Am I becoming a cultural snob? Not a chance. But with networks incapable of showing a program on a consistent schedule - there's the sweeps, the awards shows, the specials, the mini-series, the sports, etc. I have kids to schedule my life around, thanks.

Perhaps the biggest reason of all that I've gutted the TV watching is that I feel I should be more productive with enjoying my free time. Has anyone felt really good after watching 2-3 hours of the Tube? I've got activities that put me in a flow state, provide that natural high of optimal experience and are much more fulfilling. Primarily I'm talking about the 'Secret Project' which is constructive, productive and most of all, fun. Maybe I'll talk more about that in the future, or maybe not.

Do I look down my nose disapprovingly of people who watch lots of TV? Not at all. Maybe they enjoy it as much as I enjoy the things mentioned above, and I never want to come between a person and what puts them in flow. Nor do I think TV is ruining the country or causing cancer in lab mice. Hell, I want to get a nice big 50" TV at some point to see movies and games as they were meant to be. Just not my thing anymore.


mizerock said...

Somewhere in my top-10 of concerns in life is the message to Consume that is constantly bombards all Americans. It is so pervasive that it is easy to ignore - right down to the rotating billboards courtside at a college basketball game. Yes, it has been well over a decade since every inch of stadium space was plastered with advertisements - but this STILL disgusts me.

There is only one purpose of television: to sell more products. The shows are only there to get you to watch commercials. Most people think that they sell advertisements to be able to bring you entertainment, but I'm convinced that it's exactly the opposite.

So, by construction, there is no way chance of finding a TV show that shares my disgust of unbridled consumerism. And therefore there is no point to my watching television.

Except 24. Man, I love that show. I had to stop watching last year because it was all an advertisement for the NeoCon's War on Terror. But this year, you actually have a character that betrays America when he's trying to be a Patriot, taking orders from the White House. Finally, some shades of gray.

Fine, it's still only there to sell me products, but I'm entertained.

Bulworth said...

Mizerock's right on with my complaint about TV--all the commercials are p-me off. It's all pretty manipulative.

And yeah Trackball, I'm having the same feeling that must of what's on just ain't very good. I've seen all the Seifeld episodes, all of the CSI's, and most of the L&O's. But Lazarus Man? Forgot about that one. The title sounds familiar but I forgot the characters and plot.

Finally, what the blog are you doing, teasing us with 'Secret Project'? Now you've got us on the edge of our seats wondering what this Secret Project is.

mizerock said...

Secret Project = Project Runway, now airing on Bravo? This week's mission: design a dress out of $100 of flowers purchased at the NY Flower Mart.

I only know about this show because Some People in my area are addicted and talk about it incessantly.