My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Television: The Anti-Writer (Thursday's Three)

I've been watching too much TV lately.  I don't have cable, so what TV usually entails is being sequestered by Unsupportive Girlfriend to watch a dozen episodes of Scrubs on Netflix or something. I always walk away from days like that feeling mentally sluggish, and so grateful that we don't have real television.  But I can't blame only her; I usually watch something while I'm cleaning house, but I've been doing a little more watching than cleaning lately as I re-watch the Alien movies.

I like having Netflix.  Netflix you have to consciously queue up each new episode of something.  The TV won't keep running if you DON'T turn it off.  There also isn't a recursion process where the "must see" shows keep multiplying until you have two hours of absolutely crucial TV each day.

I don't think everything that comes on Television is bad, just like I don't think every published book is good.   There are good shows with good writing, good acting, and good direction that are art forms worthy of being watched, not because one wants something to do when they kick off their shoes after a long day of work, but because these shows are actually GOOD.  There are also crap shows that rot your brain.  But throwing out all offerings of a given art or entertainment is usually a little self-sabotaging.  Back before Internet could pick up the slack, you could always tell if someone didn't have Television because they seemed tragically out of touch most of the time.  They couldn't catch pop culture references or follow a conversation with real people.  If that's the kind of writer you want to be, by all means ban all forms of television from your life, but it is probably better for you as an artist with an art form that is eternally seeking to connect with and relate to people if you find a few shows with snappy writing and watch a little once in a while.

Just don't get carried away.  NEVER EVER EVER forget that the entire purpose of most television is to bring together an audience, usually to look at advertising.  This is art and entertainment that is formed around the liquid center of commercialism.  At best it will be forever constrained by that limitation. You will rarely find a show that bucks this system the way other media will--even film.  (One of the reasons shows on HBO or Showtime are often so spectacular is that they can maneuver free of these constraints.)

Also, never forget that television can inform your work, but it is an audio-visual medium, not a linguistic one, so you are just NOT getting the same benefit to yourself as a writer when you watch even the best, most well written TV as when you read a book.  It should be a side dish in your artistic fare (maybe even a spice), but reading should always be your staple.

Television is the soma of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.
Robert MacNeil

People love a happy ending. So every episode, I will explain once again that I don't like people. And then Mal will shoot someone. Someone we like. And their puppy.
Joss Whedon

I think it's brought the world a lot closer together, and will continue to do that. There are downsides to everything; there are unintended consequences to everything. The most corrosive piece of technology that I've ever seen is called television - but then, again, television, at its best, is magnificent.
Steve Jobs

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