Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Proudly Obliterating Brain Cells Since '74

It happens to all of us. You meet a seemingly awesome person who turns out to harbor a friendship-ruining flaw. Maybe they hold socio-political ideas that are scarily similar to the ones embraced by your friendly neighborhood Unabomber. Maybe they're venturing out of their mother's basement for the first time since poor Monica Lewinsky and her penchant for 'cigars' was still considered timely and witty fodder for talk show hosts everywhere . Maybe they're one of those people still doing keg stands at their old fraternity house despite being on the wrong side of 25. Or maybe, just maybe, you've had the misfortune to cross paths with (*shudder*) an anti-television crusader.

I'm not referring to people who simply choose not to spend their time in front of the affectionately dubbed 'idiot box.' I'm talking about those who proudly and loudly declare their disdain of the medium as if it were indicative of intellectual and moral superiority.

"I have better things to do with my time," sniffed one self-proclaimed Anti-Television Activist.

Oh. Well, I'm happy for you and all, but-

"And so, may I add, should YOU. It kills off brain cells, you know." She punctuated this warning with a swig of her fourth martini (extra dry, natch) which, if my admittedly limited knowledge of biology is correct, is not exactly known to replenish the brain cells about which she'd just expressed such grave concern.

To be fair (which we all know takes a concerted effort on my part!), this particular booze hound did have a point. Certainly, the airwaves are clogged with programming that's neither educational nor entertaining, and when subjected to shows like "Who Wants to Marry a Drug-Addicted, Philandering Hobo", it's hard to deny that we could all spend our time on more worthwhile and enriching pursuits.

But there's just one small obstacle preventing me from turning off my 'boob tube' and prancing off to cure cancer or single-handedly eradicate global warning...I truly, madly, deeply (did I just bring back memories of that ghastly song?!) love television.

It's an unfairly derided, surprisingly rich medium that allows us to explore characterizations, storylines and themes to an extent that neither film nor even literature allows. TV grants us the luxury of getting to know a group of compelling people across time and watching them confront a wide variety of situations; some of which we can identify with and relate to all too well, and others which are comfortably far-fetched enough to provide a welcome diversion from our own bland reality. We spend time with our favorite TV people on a weekly (or, if you rewatch with the embarrassing frequency that I do, DAILY) basis. If you have as, um, 'tame' a social life as I do, you just may end up spending more time visiting with some of these TV characters than you do with your real life friends, most of whom are too busy with their own lives and perhaps nurturing their own secret TV addictions to get together with such comforting regularity.

Contrary to what the militant anti-TV crusaders might warn you, TV doesn't have to be an isolating, anti-social activity. In fact, TV has helped me bond with co-workers and acquaintances with whom I have precious little else in common. Nothing breaks the proverbial ice quite like bonding over how fed up we are with the perma-smirking, smarmy 'McDreamy' and how few of America's Next Top Model contestants are actually, like, remotely attractive. The Internet has also helpfully enabled and deepened my addiction, connecting me with surprisingly fascinating people all over the world who enjoy analyzing, gushing over, criticizing and just plain geeking out about our common shows. In other words, TV has actually enhanced my social life rather than dampening it.

Okay, now brace yourselves for my most profound analysis to date: TV viewing is just plain fun. (*If only I could hear those gasps of awe as you all marvel at my unique insight*). Whether or not you're content with the current state of your life, there's no denying that most have us have days that can only be described as dull, dreary, depressing and probably a myriad of other less-than-idyllic adjectives beginning with 'd'. TV provides a reliably effective diversion, however fleeting. It allows us to laugh over Dwight Schrute's amusing instability rather than dwelling on our own irritating and all too real co-workers. It provides us with a small but much-needed ego boost as we smugly observe that at least our own romantic relationships are healthier than the one between...well, between any characters on any show ever to air on HBO ;)

I've spent a lot of my waking hours watching and subsequently dissecting TV shows. The anti-TV activists would use me as a poster child for how to most tragically waste one's time and potential, but I prefer to feel grateful that I've found a form of entertainment that provides such a reliable diversion and mood-boost. Some TV even ranks among the most thought-provoking, cerebral art---yes, ART, that's not a typo!---to which I've ever been exposed.

This is an awfully long-winded way of preparing you guys for the fact that a heavy percentage of my blog entries are likely to revolve around TV. (Hmmmm, how come my follower count just decreased so dramatically?!)

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some more brain cells to mercilessly assassinate!


  1. I like your insights. TV watching is fun, and, like you, has increased my social life. I've made some very good friends on The Internet through shared love of TV shows (present company included), and it's brought me things to talk about In Real Life as well! Because of a shared love for a TV show, I had a standing date every week with a friend. I wouldn't have any sort of regular social activity (even if it is sitting on my couch in our pajamas goofing off and watching the show) without TV. By analyzing TV characters, it's helped me with a teacher's dream: Increased My Critical Thinking Skills. Also, occasionally, it's helped me figure stuff out about my own life.

    You know, TV is such a stigma, with the whole "idiot box" and all. No one blinks an eye if someone says they identify with a song but if someone goes off about how much they love a character or plotline on a TV show? They get weird looks and "You know it's fictional, right?"

    In other words, TV lovers unite! Let us not succumb to the shame! Be proud, TVers!

  2. I have always had a fasination with tv and especially with the relationships that were shown, not to age my self too much. I remember when Alexis was the baddest bitch in the bunch with her shoulder pads and sharp wit. I watched as JR got shot and Bobby came out of the shower.
    I shipped couples, before I knew what shipping was. But not until the last few years did I ever invest so much in a certain show. But that became secondary because the people I met and the banter, humor, insights I shared, transended into friendships I believe will last a very long time.

  3. I have to admit, I have also spent many hours obliterating precious brain cells via watching TV shows that I love. I truly enjoy immersing myself into a good (but often not what other people might call "quality") show and getting to know the characters and their relationships and watching storylines develop. For me, it is a great way to escape and I agree, it IS fun and if I can add a little extra fun into my life, why not? What kind of TV related posts are you planning for us??? Looking forward to them...

  4. She punctuated this warning with a swig of her fourth martini (extra dry, natch) which, if my admittedly limited knowledge of biology is correct, is not exactly known to replenish the brain cells about which she'd just expressed such grave concern.

    Hee! And

    (did I just bring back memories of that ghastly song?!)

    Hey, I friggin' love that 'ghastly song'!!! I have a love for Savage Garden that knows no bounds. Well, slight bounds. Okay, so I haven't listened to that song since before I began college. But it *is* on my iPod!

    The thing about anti-tv crusaders that get my goat is the fact that there are perfectly other atrocious forms of entertainment as well. Music, art (the urinal as art still doesn't make sense to me), and books also have some forms or pieces that really should have never been created. Does that mean we should look at people and go, "Music? I don't listen to music. And you shouldn't either. It kills brain cells". If people did that, we'd stare at them like they were freaks, not as if they were intellectually superior. We'd treat them as small-minded individuals who never experienced the wonder of finding their perfect song. Which is how I treat people who respond in that way about television.

    TV has actually enhanced my social life rather than dampening it.

    So true. I haven't been on TWoP for months now, but I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things in the newest tv season. Because I miss the fun and the snark and the arguments. I just have so little time that I feel like I should be doing other things (like watching tv or writing blog posts).

    All of this is to say, "Awesome post" - and I don't think you're going to lose any followers. Every time I'm here, they've grown, seemingly exponentially!

  5. There was something else I was going to say but I can't remember what it was.

    So... *insert insightful comment here*

    And if I remember, I'll come back later.

  6. So what does it say about my personality that I have been unable to sustain an interest in a "regular" show since the kids started crawling which also happened to be around the time The West Wing went off the air? Still the best TV ever! I do however watch bits of lots of shows like Divine Design, Iron Chef and Project Runway, mostly to rid my brain of the Dora and Elmo voices that haunt my dreams. I have nothing against TV but I have to say that I have let my former BFF status with it fade . . .

  7. Another great post! I love TV but often have trouble finding a show to get into. I find out about the good shows in Season 3 or 4, typically. So, I am counting on you for good TV insight this season!

  8. TV is so good - its the only way i can shut my brain off for an hour and a half after work - i especially like watching reality where people who dont work walk around and have their brains shut off all day long - i think that "equal" footing is what allows me to appreciate shows like "sunset tan" and "Average Joe"(that was a great show). anyways Marla, I just hope you dont cut out too much TV time writing on this Blog!

  9. I've been in a sorta dumpy mood this afternoon, and this entry cheered me up, mainly because I love TV and all that comes with it. Thanks, M!

  10. Nik, I think we can safely assume that if I were raising triplets, I might end up devoting a little less time and attention to TV as well :) That said, I will make it my mission to get you addicted to one or two of my current favorites!

    Jen, be careful what you wish for---I will give you way more TV-related advice than you could possibly want!

    DAKristol, I can say with some confidence that you and I are the only two people in America who could actually call Average Joe a 'good show', so thanks for letting me know I'm not alone!

    Rach, the idea that my poorly written musings could cheer you up made my entire day, so thank YOU!

  11. I love this post because I also love watching TV. Although I must say I haven't watched a lot in the past few weeks! Anyhow, I think your post beautifully illustrated what television shows were (and are) really meant to do when they first invented television!

    You have a true talent for writing and I love reading it!

  12. Quick aside: my brother-in-law is a doctor and says that alcohol doesn't kill brain cells. Excessive drinking can hurt the liver, but if you quit drinking I think he said your brain function is fully restored in 2 years? I'll have to ask him.

    Great article. TV is a tool. If all you watch is Jonas Brothers and VH1, you will be stupid. Fortunately, you can watch a plethora of other programs and come out a better person for it.