Friday, February 22, 2008

the fine art of watching teevee.

I remember the day my dad brought home the family’s first colour teevee. It came in a big cardboard box, which to a kid is reason enough to make a day special. No matter if the box contains something as boring as a fridge – a ready made fort has just arrived at the door and there is no need to borrow the hammer and saw. A pair of blunt nose scissors will do.

He brought it home and together, though mostly I just watched, we set it up. We turned it on and the magic box burst to life with the sounds of a Circus, and elephants and tigers paraded before my little 4 year old eyes. I was sold on teevee straight away; flip a switch and instantly it’s story time, not with mere words, but with actual moving pictures. To this day I regard it as a strange and wonderful miracle. Ask anyone how teevee works and you’ll be lucky if someone can tell you more than ‘you turn it on’. I tried to figure it out once and finally just decided to call it magic and leave it at that.

Television has taken quite a beating as a medium. The hipster and neo-hippy crowd seem to have a hatred for my favorite magic box. Look at your facebook friend profile. I’ll bet there is at least one friend who has listed under favorite television program ‘television rots your brain’ or ‘kill your television’ or simply ‘I hate tv’.

Maybe you are one of those people... too cool for teevee, too self-important to admit to watching cartoons as an adult, too snobby to enjoy what the rest of the masses consume.

I suggest that if you are such a person, you get off of your high and mighty steed. You may claim not to have watched television in 20 years, but I’ll bet that if I throw out an obscure Simpson’s reference, you’ll catch it and give me 4 more before you realize what you’ve just admitted to. Just like masturbation, we all watch teevee. Some of us just lie about it.

I spent 2 years in camera and computer school. It was a demanding course, but mostly fun. The best part was having professional video cameras to play with. We all had our shot at making various video-films. Some were good, most were terrible. We were all learning after all, and using a handicam to record a piano recital isn’t at all the same sort of thing.

One of my fellow students was very vocal about how much she hated teevee. She was a bit like a boring parrot, as most neo-hippies tend to be. If it wasn’t going on about how the dairy industry is drugging us slowly, then it was about the horrible evils of television. She claimed not to have viewed a television screen in over 7 years. This of course was not at all true, and she could list off movies and Simpson episodes she had seen, most aired within the previous 5 years. Apparently if the television resides in someone else’s home or in a bar, it doesn’t count. DVDs don’t count, because if there are no ads, then it isn’t really television. The internet doesn’t count, because you ‘control’ your use. (Perhaps she didn’t understand how a remote CONTROL works).

‘Well, stupid,’ I remember thinking ‘what are you doing here in a media technology program?’

I can’t remember her convoluted explanation. I can’t remember any of her video projects either.

Here’s the thing. The ads on teevee pay for the shows we watch. Your cable bill doesn’t really come close to covering the costs of say Lost.

It is the way you watch that is important, just as the way you listen to the radio or read a book will ultimately determine the usefulness of the information you have consumed. Television cannot be blamed for stupid people believing that wearing loads of after shave will get you laid or that an SUV is an essential part of city living. If you aren’t questioning what you see, hear and smell then you really aren’t paying enough attention, are you? The problem may not be the flickering box in front of you, but perhaps you should check for a pulse and a brain wave.

I get the distinct impression that the anti-tv folk just don’t trust their own self-control. Can you honestly not ignore a commercial message? Are you so easily controlled from afar? If so, heed this message: KNOCK OFF THE SNOBBERY, I’M NOT IMPRESSED.


french panic said...

Another unfortunate thing about people saying all teevee sucks, or Kill Your TV, or other such nonsense, is that they are so incredibly naïve to assume that all television caters to the lowest common denominator. I actually learn things from TV (The History Channel, the Documentary Channel, CBC Newsworld), get to see classic films on a variety of channels, am introduced to new and indie filmmakers (the IFC, Scream), and can monitor the increasing idiocy of right wing retards (Fox News, CNN News).

South Park, the Simpsons, Futurama, Robot Chicken, Extras, the Jon Dore Show, Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! the Conchords….. ALL of these shows are written and created by people who are paying attention to the world around them – you can’t do satire without having intelligence behind it.

Saying “TV sucks!” is just as foolish as saying “Books suck!” or “Music sucks!”

Glasto Geek said...

But TV makes your brain atrophy. Some ultra clever person told me that once.

So now I just write haikus, restore antique furniture and train seeing eye dogs.

I am so busy I don't even miss Eastenders, Coronation Street, and all those other delicious rubbish programmes!

french panic said...

did that ultra clever person making atrophy claims go by the name "Sarah"? She was excellent for poo-pooing TV and then quote from the Simpsons and the Xfiles.

Pamplemousse said...

No, it really doesn't.

Or at least, only if you let it.

It will only atrophy your brain if you never question what is on the screen. To question, you must think. As in 'what is this program trying to say?' or 'why do I like this shitty program?' or 'am I only watching this because I'm lonely/lazy/fat?'

When you can't ask or answer the question, you are in too deep.

Wait... don't I know you? Yes, yes I do.

Taunting me from afar....

Come over here and say that.

Anonymous said...

I am not big on tv. It has so much potential but usually turns out to be like an ineffectual father who shows up late and drunk and passes out in a La-Z-Boy. That said, it certainly can be good but I associate it with chronic depression too because my grandma used it to avoid life after a botched marriage. The moving image arts are inherently coercive. That's fine. They work and a questioning mind is not usually so sloppy as to enforce sweeping boycotts. Still, when the tv is on, somehow I just don't feel like dancing, even when there's music and that bugs me.