The case for television
Updated: Jun 19, 2020
Welcome to my first blog post! I’ve been saying this will come for a while now but struggling to find the time to be alone with my thoughts. This should get the ball rolling. This blog will be many things, but likely a good portion of my posts will be related to entertainment and my various thoughts on the matter.
I’m slowly becoming more and more comfortable with my love for arts and culture. In particular, I love television. I rarely go a few hours without thinking about it, talking about it or watching it. So I thought it was only fitting that my first post includes me making a case for TV, this beautiful art form that I adore and never seem to shut up about.
“It's TV; it's comfort. It's a friend you've known so well, and for so long you just let it be with you.” - Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi) in Community S06E13: “Emotional Consequences of Broadcast Television.”
For growth: People who appreciate TV may also appreciate film, and may consider film to be the superior artform. Cinema generally has an air of sophistication surrounding it, and people do not expect the same of television. While I love a good movie as well, and will likely write about film, I believe TV has a unique edge due to its episodic nature. While many concepts rarely make it to pilot, those that do and have the joy of receiving a season or more provide a medium for character development.
Over several seasons, several years even, a character can grow as you grow with them. In the best examples of TV, these characters are dynamic and learn from their mistakes, their triumphs, the people who enter and exit their lives. Much like real people. You may learn to communicate, to problem solve, to achieve and to cope with failure by watching what your favorite characters go through. The joy of looking back on the first season version of a character when you’re on the fifth comes with the nostalgia of remembering who you were when first introduced to said character, and understanding how you’ve grown since then.
For empathy: TV fosters empathy that is difficult to get without appearing voyeuristic. When attempting to understand cultures and people outside of your own, it can be difficult to navigate appropriation vs. appreciation, as well as avoid ogling in an attempt to learn. Luckily, TV is voyeuristic in nature. It is designed to be unabashedly watched, picked apart. These are fictional characters; you won’t hurt their feelings by trying to understand them. They are a stepping stone to understanding those populations you don’t experience. It is not a replacement for the real-life engagement all active citizens should do. But it is a start.
In the rest of the quote I used to open this post, Abed says that “TV defeats its own purpose when it's pushing an agenda.” This is where I disagree with Abed. I believe TV has a social responsibility as an influencer of the public norm to represent life as it is, without being ashamed of any one population - specifically as this extends to minorities who have not been given the luxury of being seen as “normal.” (This will turn into SEVERAL blog posts about the importance of representation in TV.)
For comfort: Above all, TV is comforting. In the ever-shifting winds of life, TV provides a sense of escapism, and/or a place to rest while you process all that is occurring around you. The song “Netflix Trip” by AJR describes this comfort and how a show sticks with you over time. For the singer, it was The Office. For me, it’s Steven Universe. (Which just had its finale, and is DEFINITELY getting a post.) For you, it may be something completely different. But TV is meant to affect your heart, mind and spirit. It is storytelling, as old as words themselves but shifted for a modern platform.