Monday, February 25, 2008

Television will never die. Perhaps it should.

Doc tells me that The Wire is a fantastic show. He and his wife are currently making their way through the entire series (which just ended, by the way). However, this may well be one of the best shows on TV, but they are not watching it on TV. They are watching it on DVD. That is more convenient. And I get that - the only reason I ever watched Lost or Prison Break or what have you is simply because I stumbled across the DVD box sets. But the desire to continue watching those series on actual television seemed like a lot of work. So I lost interest. Rogers On Demand has some fairly good series, and I watch a few of those, but you would have to have On Demand to be able to watch them at your own convenience. So now some of those shows are being brought to regular TV. Shows like Dexter, which I really enjoy. Now Dexter is on network television! Everyone can see it! But...it's network TV. So it's censored. Which means - no swearing. That's great, a show about a serial killer who kills other serial killers gets to keep the blood! Drill bit through the eye, cool. Severing of limbs, cool. Blood spatter and spray from arteries, check. The word sh*t? Cut. Goddamn? Gone. Nipples? Oh, lord no.

But then again, I am realizing this makes a little bit of sense. There are so many swear words attached to regular television that adding more would just be overkill. I know this because I spent a good portion of the weekend, and much of the past week, swearing my head off at television. My girlfriend is into some new shows. As I watched a portion of Dancing With The Stars, my knowledge of pop culture was tested. (To be fair, I was reading a book while the Dancing With The Stars, past and present, were on Oprah.) And my girlfriend got fairly testy as I kept asking "which one is the celebrity?" when the pairs hit the Oprah stage. (When Emmitt Smith was up there, I knew. But I asked anyway, just to be obnoxious.) Dancing With The Stars should be where actual stars go to die, along with shows like The Celebrity Apprentice and Flava of Love and whatever else there may be. I just watched some of The Love Boat (also on DVD) and Doc assures me that the guest stars on The Love Boat were, in fact, there to bury their careers. The Love Boat and Hollywood Squares. Both terrible shows, both watched by millions because there was just nothing else on.

Now, however, these shows do not exist to bury careers, they exist to resurrect, and in some cases (Tila Tequila) to create careers. No "celebrity" will go gentle into that good night any more - not if they can hit Dancing With The Stars or Circus of the Stars or what have you. Still terrible shows, only with a massive amount of choice. There are so many other shows to watch! How do these shows get such high ratings? And other shows inexplicably get high ratings as well. My girlfriend is into the Sex And The City rip-off shows now. The Lipstick Rainforest and Cashmere Cosa Nostra or whatever. She insists that these shows are NOT at all like Sex and the City. You see, whereas Sex And The City was about four very successful women living in New York and talking dirty to one another, these shows are about four successful women living in other cities and talking dirty to each other. And some are not even that successful! I have always been a hater of Sex and the City. For everyone who said it was a smart show, that the writing was ingenious and clever, I disagreed vehemently. The writing was obvious and annoying, and Sarah Jessica Parker is as irritating as anyone ever put on television.

And for all those (mostly women) who hold up Sex and the City as a post-feminist masterwork, full of female empowerment and being a revelatory experience in that four single women comprise the heart of the show, I say this. Listen to women reminisce about Sex and the City. No, more than that, ask them this question: "Who was your favourite on Sex and the City?" Those exact words. Nine times out of ten, I think you will get one of these responses. "Oh, I love Mr. Big. Or I love that Aidan. Or I was a big fan of Captain Gigantor and Admiral Sweatyarms." The women who watch the show, much like the women who populated this show, identify themselves and those they are watching with the men they date, more so than with the women they are. How very empowering for women. Now, more shows feed us the same crap. And the shows that could actually be considered empowering for women are cancelled. Shows like Commander In Chief, which was actually smart, actually well written, and actually post-feminist, gone after one season.

And so we slap ourselves on the back, congratulating ourselves for creating important, genre-breaking television shows, and for liking those shows. Just not liking them enough to keep watching them. But we liked them, we paid lip service to them. And now if we really want to actually watch them, there is always DVD where we can catch up after they are cancelled. In the meantime, we don't need to pay attention to the good stuff, because there is another episode of American Idol or America's Next Top Model or The Tyra Banks Show...OK. I would recant all my previous statements if television would just do away completely with Tyra Banks.

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