I haven’t had proper, regular TV access for some years now. I’ll watch shows by DVDs of seasons, by streaming video, by other means frowned upon by the TV industry. It makes me more selective about what I watch, but it’s also made me more oblivious to things like memorable ads, special sweeps week episodes, and the new Fall season. TV networks began starting their new shows around the end of September because that was when the new car models were released and auto companies needed something to get more eyes on the screen for their commercials. That motive is long past, but the tradition remains, and this week I’ve explored modern television a little beyond my comfort zone.
First, I studiously looked through all the new shows in TV Guide’s Fall Preview issue. It’s such a parade of failure, and I’m amazed every year at the obvious clunkers that studios pay big money for. More sassy comedies, more “reality shows” featuring common real-life situations like trying to fit through weird holes in a wall or become a Playboy bunny, more spooky pseudo-science fiction with pretty people blathering intensely about unbelievable conspiracies. Over the years, I believe I’ve become a better watcher of TV (refuting a core tenet of Neil Postman) and it amazes me that the networks have gotten no better at cultivating great television.
Second, I’m going to watch a few shows that I might like, but haven’t given a proper try yet: Ugly Betty, Battlestar Galactica, The Big Bang Theory, Torchwood. I’ve heard good things about all those from at least one person whose taste I trusted, so it’ll give a little variety over my usual all-H diet of Heroes, House, and How I Met Your Mother.
Finally, I’ve been watching the hilarious British show Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe–and so should you. Brooker doesn’t just poke fun–he seems genuinely ANGRY at bad TV, and that anger is smart and vulgar and cheeky all at the same time. He doesn’t ignore the good stuff either–the show passionately advocates for programs like Deadwood, The Wire, and the new Dr. Who. It’s pretty much all available on YouTube. It’s interesting to see bad British TV that’s never imported here: there’s a late night show on British TV equivalent to the Girls Gone Wild videos that ACTUALLY FLASHES A SYMBOL ON SCREEN to tell its viewers when to stop masturbating. I knew TV could be bad, but I had no notion that we were so closed to Idiocracy‘s Masturbation Channel.