A Case for Television
Updated: Aug 6, 2020
For the first time in my life, I have a television in my room. It hangs in front of my bed, to the left of the closet, with wires twisting and turning down my wall in the most unattractive way. But to me, it is beauty. It is grace. It is PBS and Sex and the City whenever I want, from the comfort of my pillow.
I was never allowed to have a TV in my room as a child. My mom believed that a television in my bedroom would cause me to isolate myself and not spend time with my friends or family. So, I replaced the absence of electronics with reading, and soon was grounded from my Harry Potter books. On more than one occasion, my mom would take books away from me and make me play outside because she was concerned that I was spending 3-4 hours at a time reading by myself. I would begrudgingly pogo-stick on our back patio (my record was 480 jumps) or play a game where I had to make it across an imaginary obstacle course that spanned through my entire yard (except I was pretending to be Posh Spice the whole time).
Anyway, moving on...
I'm pretty sure we all have that one friend, coworker, acquaintance or what have you - who has wistfully looked off into the distance at one point or another with a smirk and shrug while saying "Oh, I don't really watch television" like they're so bad and getting off on it. Like they're a superior intellectual whose time is more precious than yours. Okay, or maybe that's just how I interpret them because I am incredibly defensive and protective of my sweet, precious shows. But like OH REALLY DEBORAH?! DO YOU THINK YOU'RE BETTER THAN ME BECAUSE YOU "DON'T WATCH THAT MUCH TV"? (I don't actually know any Deborahs. Deborah is fictional. There were no Deborahs harmed in the making of this post.)
I do watch a lot of television. It's totally true. I mean, I do other things too, like read and play games and hangout with friends and other general human activities. I don't feel the need to justify my passion for television, for I am not embarrassed, but I will defend it. I will defend it to the grave!
Whether it's a "guilty pleasure" (which I really don't get because please, be proud of things that you like!!!) or an educational documentary, television helps us learn, sympathize, understand, and fulfills us artistically. I would easily argue that watching a television show can teach you just as much and is just as intellectually stimulating as cracking a book - but in a different way.
For those of us who watch for good writing and brilliant cinematography, studying television shows is viewing kinetic art. Like film theory, many of the same concepts transfer over to beautiful television shows that make us think and feel. And the best part is, you get hours and hours of story. I love films - big movie person over here - but television allows us to extensively explore a universe. I'm the type of person who gets sad when a good movie or book has ended. I always want more! And television gives me that opportunity.
Others may enjoy the escape from reality. A weekly (or all at once) laugh or cry. Not thinking about your life because sometimes, the hardest thing is to be inside your own head. We may want to take a view at someone else's for a while. To be entertained, and generally feel happy or moved. What's wrong with that?
Television shows also highlight important cultural relevance. Really, they're like time capsules! I'm beyond thankful for streaming services that allow us to view older works in an easy way over and over, like The Twilight Zone, Twin Peaks, The X-Files, and so much more. These stories are also often revolutionary. Blank was the first show to do this! This show showed this situation, which normalizes this thing that was taboo before! And how important IS that? Broadcasting something progressive to a live audience is amazing and necessary. Of course, books and movies can do that too. But we can't always easily access those...especially in communities that need these messages the most.
Television shows create fandoms, connections, and conversations. I am on Reddit daily, checking out what people are saying in the Buffy subs. There are people from all over the world, asking questions, talking about how AWESOME a scene was, or telling tearful stories of how the show saved their life. I can't tell you how many times I get weepy at my work desk because there are others, who I will never meet, who love the show as much as I do. Buffy has saved me many times over. I clung to it in college, when I was too depressed to shower more than once a week. When I felt lonely or like no one truly could stand me, the characters I loved deeply felt real and acted as a comfort. Does that sound extreme? Well, then this may not be the blog post for you. I apologize that you've made it this far.
All in all, television is just another way of telling stories. Even reality TV - which I don't really watch that much, is a reflection of us. What people are interested in, what's trendy. There are definitely valid critiques but also justifications of what our society prefers to consume. But as a person who loves stories, and who thrives from sharing something special with people, TV shows are for me. They connect generations and give us a something in common with those who may otherwise be very different from us. Hey, did you catch GoT last night? Could you BELIEVE it?!
I could go on and on, really, but this is just a simple splat of words and not a refined thesis or publication of any kind. Just a few thoughts to get your cogs turning. An homage, really, to those who stay up until their eyes dry and crack, ducked under dusted blankets and dim electronic light. To those who have watched a show more times than they can count, but still cry every time at something new. To those who have paused an episode, smiled wide, shook their heads with a WHOA! To those who indulge in the art of television making, and coming together with others to love a common story.
Keep on binging. Keep on reading articles and works dissecting shows, or having arguments and smart conversations with those who disagree with characters or plots. Keep on giggling, sobbing, and exploring new worlds. I know I will. Because I do watch that much television.