Rotting My Brain?
As Woody Allen says, “Life doesn't imitate art, it imitates bad television.” But what does good TV imitate? For you book-reading snobs out there, I think that television has become the busy man’s short story. And, when you look at how far television has come, and in particular, channels like HBO and FX, there is a lot in which we can be intellectually interested.
Recently, I have been thinking about what draws people to regularly watch and love a television show? I think for me, it has to do with the characters. In fact, I don’t mind a slow plot if the characters are written in such a way that just watching how they react to simple things is interesting. I would also contend that within the past five to ten years or so, there have been some of the greatest characters ever written for television. To name a few, Tony and Carmella Soprano from The Sopranos, Al Swearengen from Deadwood, Vic Mackey from The Shield, anyone from Arrested Development, and Christian from Nip/Tuck are all powerful and incredibly interesting characters.
One show that I loved on HBO was called Carnivale. And, if you didn't watch it, it was a sort of magical realism mixed with carnies. Anyway, I signed up to be on the yahoo group for the show so I could read how people were interpreting the plot twists and whatnot. The show has been canceled for more than a year, and I still get no less than 10-15 group emails a day about various aspects of the show, which only ran for two seasons. Such a devotion to a television show is just amazing to me.
It's also interesting how very sad people are when a show ends. Many of us are emotionally preparing for the last few episodes of the Sopranos or perhaps are still a little sad that West Wing is no more (unless that’s just me). And while it may be silly to care that much about a television show, the fact is that we do. And, it seems like a lot of it is us caring about these characters on TV have elements of “us” in them or how we imagine we might be in that particular setting or situation. I’m not sure if television can quite be counted as high culture just yet, but I would say there are certainly glimpses of it.