Monday, September 24, 2007

Baby I can almost taste it

The NYT has an interesting article here about, among other things, how television viewing has become a sort of bellwether, an indicator of someone's status or taste or even personality, just as musical tastes once were (or are--don't ask me. The husband isn't wrong when he says I think most music is noise). One passage particularly caught my attention:

"A favorite show is a tip-off to personality, taste and sophistication the way music was before it became virtually free and consumed as much by individual song as artist. Dramas have become more complicated; many of the best are serialized and require time and sequential viewing. If anything, television has become closer to literature, inspiring something similar to those fellowships that form over which authors people say they would take to the proverbial desert island. (People who say “Ulysses,” on the ground that it would use up more time than almost any other novel, would also probably bring “The Wire.”)"

First of all, I would dispute the last parenthetical claim: people who say they would bring Ulysses would still not admit to watching any TV, critical acclaim notwithstanding, because they are, in a word, freaky. But, the point here is an interesting one: does television viewing form "fellowships" in the way this author posits? And, if so, doesn't that fact negate the whole television is isolating Americans argument that gets bandied about so often (by talking heads on TV, no less!)? And what about the bleeding of "high" into "low" culture and vice versa here? Is a serial as densely plotted and with as many sub and main characters as, say, Lost any less "high" culture than a serialization of a Dicken's novel was? (My loyal band readers already knows my answer to this question, of course, but it's still a fun one to raise!)

And, more amusingly, if we take the author up on her primary premise, what do our viewing habits say about us? Looking back at my list of shows I may catch this season, I'd have to say I appear to like soapy serials. But in "real" life, soapy lit is really not my thing, nor are soaps themselves. And does my affection for Friday Night Lights really put me in some sort of club? And where do the members of that club stand on the fact that I like America's Next Top Model or Grey's Anatomy, much less cerebral and much less challenging shows? Hmmmm....

(by the by, Prison Break is no longer on the list, largely because Fox has stopped carrying their shows on Myspace and instead has their own viewer which does not work. Sad, sad, sad how technology has failed them. And, it seems, me. Oh well.)

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