In an effort to separate life from work – at least a little bit – I have tried to watch some of the new season of television. Since I do not have cable I have been limited to broadcast television: and once again, PBS has the only shows for which I stay awake through most of the broadcast. Perhaps it is the television snob in me. Perhaps it is because I actually enjoy learning something more than sitting for gimmie punch-lines.
Twenty-five years ago my degree in radio-television production made me highly critical of television as an entertainment medium as I could spot every microphone shadow and continuity failure. Good writing saved some of the television shows at the time. Either shows have become much better at hiding those pesky microphones (they have become comparatively microscopic) or I have lost my eye for such things (aging does that). Sadly I have yet to find any good writing this season.
The shows I have enjoyed most consistently have had good writing and good characters. A conversation Facebook chat with a friend of mine recently explained why I do not watch some of the shows. He was anxiously awaiting the premier of one of the popular reality shows – which I confessed to watching one time. He could not believe that I was not hooked. I summed it up with one statement, “I would not be friends with any of the people on the show.” You want reality; that’s it. The reality producers effectively craft characters from all the people participating in the show by selectively choosing which bits to air: mostly drama without the writers creating a story. Reality does not need production.
I work with people all day long. I do not need to come home to more “real” drama. The created drama on PBS, though takes up little of the programming time and creates stories and characters I look forward to watching. Downton Abbey, Dr. Who, Call the Midwife, all have stories that captivate and characters who fascinate. Dr. Who has finally captured my attention even though it has been around, off and on, longer than I have been (continuously). The other documentary and educational programming engage my brain enough that I do a better job of staying awake than any of the laugh tracks.
I find it fascinating that the laugh track was supposed to make it easier to laugh because the view was laughing along with others. It also helped the ignorant viewer know when a joke had been made. Despite the laugh track, I can make it through entire episodes of some of the shows I have seen this season without even breaking a smile.
Now that I have given them a few weeks to grow on me (though I mostly slept through them – seriously they could not even keep me awake), I have reached the point of giving up on television for another season and the cable company will futilely attempt to get me back.