Watching T.V. is bad for you. It’s going to rot your brain. That said…
We all heard that a lot growing up – from teachers, parents and coaches. From lots of smart people who care about us and want us to do well in life. If you watch T.V. too often, you’re going to fail.
Okay, perhaps that’s a bit extreme. But you get the idea. T.V. is not seen as a medium for story telling or an art form like novels and films. T.V. is generally viewed as a time-suck, a mindless escape from reality, a vehicle for advertisements and a hypnotic vessel used to tell us what’s cool and what isn’t. There may be brainwashing involved.
But we’re smart kids. And as much as our parents, teachers and coaches love us – sometimes that fact gets missed. I am the first person to go off on rants about how reality television is eating away at all that’s good in the world from the inside out (again – perhaps a bit extreme, but we’re all entitled to our long-winded over the top rants). But when it comes to story telling, development of characters and the investigation of the spectrum of the human experience, T.V. can be, and often is, an art form.
I just finished watching the first five seasons of Supernatural. And let me tell you, that was the most perfect multi-season story arch I have ever seen. The show examined our perceptions of destiny, peace vs. freedom, family dynamics, addiction, death, revenge and a whole host of other interesting facets of humanity. And it did it with a beautiful, unified and intricate five season story arch comprised of individual season arches that moved the story and the characters along while still playing into the culmination of the fifth season, which arguably should have and could have been the series finale.
Of course it was making money, so they kept it on the air, possibly to the detriment of the story – but we aren’t perfect. And we don’t have an American BBC equivalent. But the point is, Supernatural, a self-referential, clever, devastating procedural on a network that is devoted to teen dramas, produced a unique, beautiful and tragic story that forces you to ask questions and to examine your beliefs. Television – crime procedurals, teen dramas and sitcoms – all tell stories.
We shouldn’t be asking ourselves if we’re wasting time watching T.V. Instead, watch T.V. like you read books. Evaluate the stories, the characters and the themes. Take into account the medium. How do the writers and producers work around the constraints of advertising, 42 minute episodes and sweeps? If we allow television the same dynamic evaluation system we give to films and novels, it can be just as enriching to our perceptions of story.
But you should probably still do your homework first…