Blogging my incredibly elaborate efforts at The Perfect Tech-Enabled TV makes me conscious of all the people who are wondering why I care so much about watching TV in the first place. After all, most of my friends are highly evolved creatures who divide their time between meditating, cooking vegan meals and reading the latest prize-winning novel. My devotion to a low-brow medium that is proven to be the root cause of many of the world’s problems is not only suspicious in itself, but should make you think twice before heeding my words on any other screen-based amusements.
That said, I refuse to hide my TV habit. I’ve managed to curtail or eliminate just about every other vice in my repertoire: alcohol, refined sugar, white flour, pot, coffee…you name it. Leave me my screens!
And I’m not convinced TV belongs only in the “vice” column. For those of you who scratch your head at the very idea of subscribing to basic cable, here’s a quick run-down of the ways that TV can actually be, you know, not bad:
- The new middle-brow: It seems increasingly that there are more watchable, smart TV shows than watchable, smart movies. I’m not talking about the ultra-highbrow, art-house stuff: I’m taking about your everyday, enjoyable-but-not stupid stuff. Shows like Damages, Friday Night Lights and The Good Wife make for engrossing but thoughtful drama; 30 Rock, Modern Family and Community offer far more consistent laughs than the latest gross-out movie comedies.
- Incremental entertainment: By the time our kids go to bed it’s often too late for us to watch a movie and get to bed on time. A one-hour show, however, is manageable.
- Self-deception: If the TV is on, then I’m having fun and not working: at least, that’s the little lie I tell myself. So I up save the work chores that are too tedious to mono-task (e-mail cleanup, spreadsheet checking, inserting graphics into blog posts) as well as the work chores that I’m avoiding and need to distract myself from in order to get started. Then I put on a show that is good enough to watch, but not so good that I mind having half my attention elsewhere. It helps me get to those tasks I’d otherwise avoid forever.
- No late fees: When we do watch movies, we inevitably return them late and rack up late fees. Watching movies as digital downloads (via iTunes, Netflix or Amazon) is a great way to avoid enriching Blockbuster.
- Talking to normal people: TV (like childrearing) is one of those great common grounds that give you something to talk about with people you don’t know very well or have much in common with.
- Getting it: TV is a huge part of popular culture. If you don’t watch TV, you’re going to have a hard time relating to mass culture. Period.