I do not remember a time when I did not love television. Seriously, I have wracked my brain and discovered that no such time existed. But that’s pretty common right? Everyone loves TV. It’s there for that reason. I can’t wait to learn more in this course about what really goes on to make us love TV, why it’s such a widely loved medium and how, even when by all accounts a show is really really abysmal (Being Lara Bingle, I’m looking at you,) it still achieves ratings in the hundreds of thousands (I admit, I’m one of the religious viewers.)
By many people’s standards I have terrible taste in TV. I don’t deny it and I’m not ashamed of it. Well, not very ashamed of it. Reality TV is my haven and I count the following among my favourite shows; Say Yes To The Dress, Tough Love, Next Top Model, Project Runway, Baggage with Jerry Springer and, yep, Being Lara Bingle. Yes, I just wrote that. On the internet, no less. Reputation be damned.
The point of that list was to say, I can’t wait to learn about these shows in an academic sense. I can’t wait to understand and to be able to articulate WHY these shows make me feel the way they do, HOW they are designed to do so and so much more. When asked why I think it is worthwhile to study television in a university context I feel it’s because of what I’ve just spoken about. When we watch television, we’re not passive as such, (unlike how many critics have seen TV) but it is there for enjoyment. We watch TV and we like what we like and hate what we hate and everyone has such a different relationship with it, but you can be sure that everyone has a relationship with it. I know that when I’m watching my favourite programs, I’m not thinking about why I’m enjoying it. I’m not analyzing every enjoyable moment or the peaks and troughs in my enthusiasm. But a whole industry is built around and based on understanding and working with my enthusiasm, that I put so little thought into. While I enjoy the academic and theoretical study of media, I like to see how it can affect the industry, and practical roles within it.
This is why I found the documentary we watched, Hollywood: The Rise of TV so interesting. I showed how there really is a whole industry, with people’s jobs and livelihoods, all riding on OUR enjoyment of THEIR product. A show doesn’t rate, it’s gone. I loved all the conversations they had with various producers as it all just increased this message of just how high pressure the world of TV is, and how it is ratings based. I felt like it kinda blows that “TV audiences are passive” thing right out of the water.
This also made me think about some of the shows I love, specifically reality TV. No wonder shows keep getting more and more shocking and sometimes border on ridiculous. People love to be shocked and the more they are shocked, the more they are desensitized so the harder it is to shock them! But when you’ve got so many channels, so many shows competing for people’s attention – you have to be the one that will catch their attention the most. That’s what struck me about Jamie’s Fowl Dinners. And this idea applies to all shows, not just reality TV. And as one of the sources on Hollywood: The Rise of TV said, when people watch TV they flick and in a matter of seconds they decide if they like you, and if they don’t, you’re gone!
This fascinated me and showed me how different television is from film. In The Past is Another Country Grame Blundell concludes with “TV is now where the innovations in narrative method and storytelling are to be seen.” And in this fast-paced, cut-throat TV environment presented in Hollywood: The Rise of TV, it is no wonder. The very environment of TV demands more from its creators. I’m not saying making a feature film isn’t hard or doesn’t take talent but when you make a film, you may have years, from the concept to its screening. TV does not have that luxury of time, or it certainly wasn’t presented that way in Hollywood: The Rise of TV. Furthermore, I found, as TV is ongoing, when people are vocal in their reactions to it, it can actually have an effect. If I show has turned in a direction the viewers don’t like, therefore ratings drop, that show is either vastly changed with an alteration of cast, director or even writer, or it’s axed.
This idea is raised in Why Do I Love Television So Very Much. Alan Mckee says “It speaks to different people, in different ways, at the same time. Television likes it audience, and flatters its viewers that their opinions matter – tell us what you think, says television, performing the belief that democracy is true and that what the individual thinks is important. And for television, it is true.” It’s like TV finds out what you’re thinking, so you watch shows and think “that’s me! I’ve been there! It understands me!” It seems more a reflection of life than films. There are many reasons this could be true, but right now I’m going to stick with the idea that it’s ongoing.
An ongoing series represents life because it doesn’t end after 2 hours in a dark theatre. Many things happen at once. The characters are allowed to develop in a similar way, even at a similar pace as people in real life. And you can get to know them so well. I’ve felt this way about Sex and the City. You look at season one and season six and the girls have changed so much. And you can look back and see that you know how they’ve changed, they’ve had a trajectory, just like you have in the past years of watching them. It’s such a unique medium in that way. I felt that Graeme Blundell struck a chord with me with his similar feeling about The Sopranos.
Everyone has one. A show that they feel that way about. And as magical as it may seem, as Hollywood: The Rise of TV showed, there are people behind that show, crafting it to make you feel that way.
Looking at it that way makes it seem like a deception. But it’s really not. It’s just clever. And I find, you can’t be hurt that they are hiding their manipulation of it, because you still just love TV so much.
Well, I do, anyway.
Consensus of thoughts on first lecture: I still really really love TV.