Sunday, January 10, 2010

sunday salon: Deliberate television watching

There has been a lot of talk about 2010 as the year of deliberate reading, and for me, I'm also being more deliberate about my television watching. I love tv, and I really like some bad tv shows. The Real World/Road Rules Challenges seem to be a series I will never outgrow. There is something endlessly fascinating about watching the continuing drama of those I watched grow older on screen. Some change immensely, and usually disappear from future seasons, and some come back the same as they were ten years ago, and I wonder if they truly are the same, or if they're simply good at playing a character of what they think the public expects of them. Still, I find I'm watching fewer guilty pleasure shows (thank you, The Soup, for making it easy to know what's going on, laugh, and not waste hours each week). I'm also watching fewer shows. If it doesn't hold my interest, I'd rather read. I'm reading The New York Times every day, and that takes time. Time seems even more valuable now that I'm focusing on being deliberate not only with my reading, but also with my television watching.

As part of reading deliberately, I've done a lot of thinking about what genres I often neglect. I like historical fiction, and I enjoy historical movies, yet I find I often only read a few historical novels or see a few historical movies, which got me thinking about television genres. Aside from Mad Men, is there a show on U.S. television today not set in the present? I'll throw in The Tudors because it has one season left, and I'll give a few points to The Vampire Diaries and True Blood for their flashbacks to the 1800's. Are there others? As a frequent watcher of cable and premium television shows, I was surprised to realize the lack of genre diversity.

Looking at my love of literature next to my love of television, I realized how one-dimensional my television habits are. There are some wonderful programs on the air, and I understand the economics of producing period shows, but there seems to be a market there. All of the modern vampire stories stem from earlier times; why not create a period vampire show for teens? Surely there are writers and producers interested. Isn't one of the problems with television marketing standing apart from the crowd? Pick a different decade. Pick a different century. Pick a different country. Our television landscape is contemporary, white and American. Shouldn't television provide more of an escape to other times and lands? Until it does, I realize why I'm spending more and more time reading and less time watching television.

I love tv, and there are quite a few fantastic programs on the air. As we bemoan the shrinking of the publishing industry, lets take a little time to be grateful of the variety of books published and available. We're transported to different places, times, universes and worlds. We can read works by authors in other countries and, to an increasingly lesser extent, those originally written in other languages. Yes, we live in a bestseller dominated literature world, but the options in literature are still vast, and I, for one, will take this year of deliberate reading to celebrate the options literature provides for me and bemoan the dearth of options on television.


  1. Lots of food for thought here. My tv and movie watching has cut back a lot recently. Shows that used to hold my interest are no longer doing so. I'd also rather fill my time with other activities like playing with my daughter, spending time with my husband, and getting some exercise. It seems like many of the shows on today are so similar in theme that really, who needs to watch all of them? ;-)

  2. Great post. I watch way too much tv. it's easy to blame my husband but i need to take more ownership of what goes on in the house, and make more time for reading!

  3. Gotta admit, I'm a Masterpiece Theater kind of gal, but I know what you mean. I tivo worthless shows all the time then never watch them and end up deleting them a year later. So I can't even watch bad TV all that well, lol.

  4. That's a great idea to expand deliberateness to tv as well. My tv watching has gotten so deliberate that I only keep up with one show. I spend my tv time reading.


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