Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ode to Television in Five Parts

TV is the true American art form, I always say. And I do mean true. And I do mean art. Gotta love literature and film, but TV remains my favorite medium for fiction, and here’s why:

1. In Which I Become Found in Translation

TV taught me two languages. Linguists everywhere, listen up because it’s true and not in a lame, imaginary friend kind of way, either. I would literally watch English and Spanish television as a child and eventually found that I could understand the dialogue without consulting the subtitles. I might not have been capable of writing treatises in English right away, and I may presently remember only the telenovela jargon as far as Spanish goes, but still: to a young girl from Bucharest, the extent of language acquisition by TV seemed significant.

2. The Circle of Life

Yep, my reasoning is the title of a song from The Lion Kingthe one that tried to justify the animals’ need to kill each other in order to survive in the wild. A similar concept applies to television, minus the technicolor bloodshed. I’ve lost track of all the times I lost a favorite show to cancellation, whether timely or premature. Every single time I was inconsolable, fully convinced that no other programming could fill that void in quite the same way. But eventually, I always stood corrected. No sooner had I finished weeping over the demise of my beloved Arrested Development, than Poof (the magazine for magicians): the age of 30 Rock had begun.

3. Longevity

You know those books and movies that are so incredibly good that ¾ of the way through you get sad because you know the end is just around the corner? Well, with a good TV show, you have considerably more time to bask in the sheer pleasure of the escapism. Even the cliffhangeriest of episodes can’t ruin for you the 99 percent certainty that there’s ultimately more where that came from (and that you will be able to experience it from the comfort of your pajamas and beanbag chair). Besides, more often than not, when they do end, series finales provide relatively satisfactory resolutions. Cinema-wise, I still haven’t achieved closure for There Will Be Blood.

4. Absurdity

Let’s face it: TV makes you a little crazy. Endearing-crazy, not Bertha Mason-crazy. (Yes, she does read!) I’m talking about the kind of crazy that finds you screaming at the rapidly deteriorating protagonist you’ve followed for six years because you know—you know—she’s better than that. The kind of crazy that leads you to briefly ponder what Jim and Dwight are up to when the cameras aren’t rolling. The kind of crazy that convinces you it’s totally rational to gauge your rate of personal growth by the speed at which your taste in television evolves. Like I said, endearing-crazy.

5. In Which It Is Revealed Why We Can Be Friends

Generally speaking, where there’s art, there’s elitism; literature, music, even film, are all awash with snobbery these days. And yet, TV is more or less judgment free. TV lovers, regardless of particularity, are all equal. The drama junkie is no better than the comedy junkie is no better than the reality junkie, because we’re ultimately all “losers” who would rather not bother with personal hygiene or proper clothing on our day off. This is because in spite of having a type or two, the tellyphile (just go with it) usually dabbles in other genres sooner or later. We do not have standards or levels to which we won’t stoop. Nothing is completely beneath us. Even I, self-proclaimed TV snob,* have once watched a Flavor of Love marathon. 
* I am also a self-proclaimed paradox fanatic.


  1. I must admit to refraining from bathing both when I have a new Netflix DVD of a show I'd never shower for, but also when I have a new Atlantic or Harpers on my coffee table. Even elitists like to spend an entire day in their sweatpants.

  2. You mean... elitists are people too?!

  3. Oh I laughed so hard when you said, like all other addicts, we do not have "standards". So many images flashed through my mind. By the way, is it not normal to skip bathing and spend the day in pj's watching TV on a Sunday? I hope you eventually write an article about how the advent of the DVD has caused some of us to overdose...Oh and an article about situations where the guy you've had a huge crush on for months finally asks you out for a drink and you say, "Oh, I'd love to, but I've got to get home and watch Alias." Burn. TV addiction is a bitch.

  4. Artillery, I like to believe that I'm evolved enough to choose the real thing over the fantasy, but you never know. Perhaps I'll know it's true love when the guy shows up with a DVD set for us to watch together.

    As for the advent of the DVD idea, there is definitely an article in that. Thank you!