December 08, 2003

Sucking the Fun

I was watching my spanky new Pirates of the Caribbean DVD this weekend and playing SOCOM Navy Seals on the PS II when it dawned on me:

I haven't watched regular television programming regularly in a really long time.

I used to have several different shows that I never missed, but over time that's been whittled down to three--two that I try to never miss and one that I watch if I remember. Here they are:

Justice League (animated)
America's Funniest Videos

I'm sure I could do a long overblown sociological and psych analysis of myself based on this selection, but who cares? The fact is that there are only three shows I give even the tiniest bit of a rat's patootie about watching now, and those three shows have one thing in common: they're fun. Not didactic, not preachy, not au courant, not "edgy" or "topical," just entertaining.

I read the newest Nielsen reports, and I read Jonah Goldberg's essay on the death of television and to be honest, I agree. Not that TV is necessarily dead, but that what's out there now surely is. I mean, what's left? Hackneyed sitcoms? "Hard-hitting" dramas in which the same characters face a) substance abuse issues, b) topics that "resonate" or c) romantic dysfunction? Soft core pr0n?

You know things are bad when pr0n is boring. Seriously, people, Skin? Bad implants, bad acting, blah, blah, blah. I'm sure we would have had some gratuitous girl-on-girl shameless ratings grabbing, too. Yawn. I'm SO over it.

I'm also way, way, over being preached to by my television. Hell, MASH annoyed me with that crap when I was fourteen. A couple of decades haven't made me any more amenable to it; what they have made me is much more likely to find the writers responsible and throttle them. Yeah, I need to be shown the light by a bunch of folks whose idea of intellectual diversity is hot girl-on-girl action during sweeps week, with a nod to Kwanzaa in December. What. Ever. NEXT!

The bottom line, network TV, is that we just don't need you anymore. There are currently about a million channels out there, and if half of them come up with one good program a year, that's sufficient. We also have the internet, fun "cursed pirate" movies on DVD, and video games, none of which are trying to open my eyes to the harsh realities of a disease of the week or to teach me that living in the suburbs and enjoying the occasional Wal-Mart expedition is somehow bad and wrong.

Listen, TV people. Pushing the envelope and shocking the bourgeoisie is so seventies. We've moved on. You can either dig deep and find the fun or you can wither on the vine. America won't be terribly bothered either way. Well, as long as we can keep watching wacky pinata hijinks on AFV, that is.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at December 8, 2003 09:39 AM

BAW, I'd love to know what you make of "Joan of Arcadia," if you should watch a few episodes. Friday nights at 8. You should probably watch a few (if you have time), to get a full sense of the show's themes (does God exist? Does religion (Christianity mainly) have anything useful to say? How does a family deal with tragedy and permanent loss (athlete son becomes paraplegic in auto accident).

Also, how does a teenager grow up?

I never miss it.

Posted by: Nancy2784 at December 8, 2003 10:52 AM

Nancy -

I've read a couple of summaries over on Television Without Pity--of course, they're all about the snark, so I'm not sure I can get the flavor of the thing that way...I think I keep waiting for the "postmodern catch" that has to be somewhere inside that show; you know, where God turns out to be "God."

But maybe I'm just a mean old cynic. I mean, I laugh my butt off when people fall down...

Posted by: BAW at December 8, 2003 03:25 PM

Hey, I'm with you! I haven't watched anything on network TV in over a year (regularly, that is), not even the news. Internet and DVD's are SO much better. There are a few cable channels I tune into only occationally, but for the most part TV is irrelevant to my life.

(And life is so much better without it!)

Posted by: .glyph. at December 8, 2003 08:15 PM

I don't watch tv programming at all anymore. It just infuriates me, its either so inept, trashy, or (in the case of the local evening snooze) patronizing. I use the tv mainly to watch my dvds and videotapes.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 9, 2003 07:07 AM

BAW, I must recommend The West Wing. Really. Call us lame academics, but many of my colleagues and I watch it just because we kinda think Jed Bartlet would be a better option than the folks out there now. Not to mention that he has a much cooler staff. Re-runs of Buffy are also always good. Also (if you can get it on DVD), The Office, which was on BBC America, is the best. It is the most truly, horridly,accurately human show ever made. It's the only show that's even made me cringe, howl, groan, and laugh hysterically almost simultaneously. Oh -- and I watch too much TV. May explain why my cards aren't done and no cookies are baked. But the evil exams are being graded.

Posted by: Another Damned Medeivalist at December 12, 2003 03:22 PM


Was avid Buffy fan, though after Season 2 I was disappointed--don't get me started on Riley and the Spuffy relationship. Kept watching anyway, though. I've heard good things about The Office, too. But I just can't make myself do West Wing--the episodes I did watch were just too earnest. I liked Sorkin's earlier show, Sports Night, much better, although those tipped the preachy scales from time to time as well.

Posted by: BAW at December 12, 2003 05:21 PM