Monday, August 8, 2011

TV or Not TV

On August 3 Steve Blow, columnists with the Dallas Morning News, wrote a column titled, “Free at Last from the Grasp of Bad TV.”  This is a nice thought.If only it was true.  Steve Blow was rejoicing in the fact that The Bachelorette and all of its drama are finally over.  I second his “Hallelujah” to that.  Unfortunately, I am sure that there is more bad TV out there.  In fact, a quick trip through the TV guide reveals that there may actually be TV that is even worse!!  Scary, but true.  I’m not even going to list the possible candidates for this distinction here because I don’t want anyone to actually put my assertion that there is TV worse than The Bachelorette to the test by watching these other “shows.”
Steve Blow also refers to an article in a recent issue of Time magazine in which historian David McCullough is asked, “We often can’t understand how people in the past could have owned slaves or not educated girls.  What do you think people will wonder about us?  McCullough’s response was, “How we could have spent so much time watching TV.”
Why do we as a society spend so much time watching television?  And more importantly, why do we seem to enjoy it so much?  I have several thoughts on these questions.
One of the reasons we spend so much time watching television is because TVs are everywhere.  They are like a great big germ that has caused a national epidemic.  Nearly everyone is exposed to the numerous strains of this infection - LED, LCD, HD, 3D, Plasma -many times a day and nearly all of us have been infected by this chronic, if not terminal, dis-ease..  There are televisions in restaurants, doctor’s office waiting rooms, train stations, our cars, and nearly every room of some people’s homes.  It seems that there are more televisions than there are those fancy hand sanitizing stations.  H1-N1 has nothing on HD TV with regard to epidemic status.  
Why are there TVs everywhere?  Are we not capable of sitting quietly while we wait for a doctor?  Do we have nothing of interest to talk about with those with whom we are dining?  Can kids not play license plate bingo or color or sleep in the car like we did before cars came standard with TVs and DVD players?  What has changed?  What is at the root of the TV epidemic?
I believe that what has changed is that, generally speaking, we are an unhappy society.  We watch TV to escape our own lives.  We fantasize about being the next American Idol, or The Bachelorette, or  the winner of an extreme home makeover.  Or, we feel powerful because we are not as fat as the people on the Biggest Loser or as pathetic as those on Hoarders.  For the hour that we are enthralled in these shows we think we are happy.  Unfortunately, as Steve Blow points out in his article, research shows that watching television actually causes depression.  Really?  Who knew? And I’m not even talking about the news.
I am not trying to pound the TV industry into the ground here.  TV is a business.  Like any business the producers are out to make money.  Money comes from advertisers buying time on shows that people watch.  People watch crappy shows.  Crappy shows then make the money.  Producers like the money.  They make more crappy shows.  People watch them.  Business booms.  As you can see, it is a vicious cycle.
As with many things, I suspect that I am in the minority with my perception of the quality of television these days.  That’s OK.  I’m content with not knowing who the latest Idol winner is.  I may be culturally illiterate by current standards, but I’m happy.
Oh, and FYI, Desperate Housewives is going off the air.  I suspect that depression will be on the rise!