Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Idiot Box

I admit it - I like TV.

I'm not sure how this interest developed - TV was practically taboo in my family growing up, aside from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood and the Green Bay Packers.  (Then again, to find compelling TV characters, one need look no further than Mr. Rogers.  I'm looking at you, Neighbor Aber. *swoon*)

Now, I can't just turn on the TV and flip channels - the ads drive me crazy.  But I love finding a great show on Netflix and getting immersed in the story.  Television as an artistic form is unique - it allows for extended character development, really letting you live alongside the characters.  In a well-crafted TV show, the story can unfold at a slower pace.  A character's arc doesn't have to be all wrapped up in ninety minutes or 200 pages.  Narrative seeds can be planted and not come to fruit for several episodes or even several seasons.

I think that the popularity of instant-viewing services like Netflix is allowing TV to develop as an art form in a really positive direction - combining the best elements of both television and film with a dash of the Conan Doyle-style serialized novel thrown in.  

In the instant-viewing format, TV doesn't have to be the passive, brain-melting escapism it's generally reputed to be.  My typical television-watching experience with my husband involves constant use of the pause button for long periods of discussion and analysis.  My degree is in literature and his is in theatre performance - so a TV show gives us lots to talk about from both perspectives.  We talk about narrative, themes, character, storytelling, staging.  We critique the actors' performances and yell about continuity issues.

As I mentioned in my first post here, TV can also tell us a lot about the society we're living in.  I don't mean this just in a whatever-happened-to-Beaver-Cleaver-this-world-is-going-to-hell-in-a-handbasket kind of way - TV really says a lot about what people are thinking about, what worries them, what they think they need to do to be happy.  My armchair sociologist self loves to watch TV from this perspective, too.  Although, since I didn't get exposed to a lot of pop culture growing up, I sometimes feel more like an anthropologist than a sociologist - unearthing the mysteries of this strange culture in all its philosophical topsy-turviness, with its loud insistence on relativism and its secret longing for the solid and the eternal.

So, anyway...has anyone seen Dr. Who?  Is it any good?

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