I Love TV
There is a time and place for true confessions and I think this one of them.
I love TV.
There. I’ve written it down. I’m saying it out loud. It feels really good.
I’ve loved television for a long time but haven’t always felt comfortable readily admitting this. It feels brave to admit, but my late 40s are nothing if not a chapter in my life where I am exhibiting a little more bravery. A little less shame. There is something quite freeing about openly admitting my love of television. For years, I fought this about myself, tucked it away in my shame drawer while more interested in sharing my love for reading and books.
This part is true. I really do love books. But, I also really like TV.
Recently I was listening to an interview with the researcher, professor, MIT person Dr. Linda Griffith on the podcast Fresh Air who is doing incredible research in women’s health, to name just one small part of her work. During her conversation with Terry Gross, she off-handedly mentioned that she doesn’t have time for TV. She just doesn’t watch it. And I felt sad for her, right after I felt very bad about my television habit.
This reminded me of a conversation with a new friend who was talking about productive time management and how TV seems like such a waste of time. I just don’t think they realize how good it can be. I mean, if they committed the time and really worked at it.
Writing was first on my To-Do list for today, but I just found “Mare of Easttown” last night on HBOMax and, well, my goals have changed. I mean. I did write a little. I just set a really low word count goal — 100 words — to feel successful before I returned to the tube.
I also have grading to do.
As a part-time college professor, I assign homework to the students which, apparently, I then need to read. I like this part, except for when I don’t; except for the times when I remember I still have episodes of “Ginny & Georgia” to watch on Netflix or I get lost in “The Voice.”
During the pandemic, I created something I didn’t know was possible in the Notes App on my iPhone. I created a table. I create a “Watch” table. Anytime a new show struck my fancy, or a friend recommended a “must-see,” I added it to my table, which includes a column for the show title and a column for my comments. (I should also add a column for where to find the damn shows. Peacock? For real?)
Sure, I have to navigate some inner tension because I read “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” by Neil Postman (1985), in college and it’s a book I refer to quite often as an important critical analysis of how entertainment is one of our highest values and television places the template of entertainment on everything it broadcasts, especially the news.
I also felt indicted by the 2008 animated dystopian film “Wall E” where the humans reside in huge spaceships and exist only in recliners perpetually turned towards personal screens.
I fear that might be the path I’m on if I’m not careful.
My sheepishness is further compounded by the fact that I read “The Electronic Hearth” by Cecelia Tichi in graduate school and became more aware of how our living spaces are oriented around big screens rather than the fireplace of old. I was reading this while writing my Master’s Thesis, “A Rhetorical Analysis of Sex and the City.” It was exhilarating to learn “Sex and the City” could be a legitimate thesis topic and I thought it quite brilliant to incorporate TV watching into my graduate studies.
In retrospect, I am certain it was profoundly helpful that I went to college in the early 90s where there was one TV for the whole dorm. We rarely had individual TVs in our rooms, much less pocket-size streaming devices. As a natural procrastinator and TV lover, I’m not entirely sure I would have graduated college much less made it to graduate school.
Now, when my pull to the television feels a little like an addiction, I remind myself that I’m not just watching TV for me. I’m watching it for my students. I want to compile a catalog of relevant examples of interpersonal communication to enhance my lectures and discussions. I also want to stay current with my classes. I want to know what the kids are watching these days as a bridge between the generations. Watching TV isn’t just a pastime, it’s a gift I’m giving to my students. They’re grateful for it.
I loved watching TV as a kid, but it was highly regulated, both by my mom and the mere fact that there were only four channels. I say this more and more, starting with the phrase, “Back in my day…”
My boys love these stories. I’m sure of it.
The funny this about loving TV and having children is that all of this can get quite complicated. For my first son, I read the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations about screens and kids. I even did a few talks on them for moms’ groups and limited screens until my son was 2. I’m sure we made it to 1 ½ at least. (For sure to his first birthday.)
In contrast, my youngest is being raised by wonderful families of YouTube. So, things have changed. But it is also a pandemic (an excuse I wonder how long I can use once the pandemic is over).
My angst about TV watching is quieter this morning because it is overcast outside, the marine layer from the ocean still hanging over my Southern California town. I love the marine layer because we don’t have a lot of inclement weather and this gives me permission to stay inside and be cozy and curl up with a good book. (I mean watch shows.) There is just so much sun in Southern California, a sun that is constantly telling me to go outside. I get it.
Outside is good. I like fresh air. But have you seen Ted Lasso on Apple+?
I believe it’s good to be transparent in our writing. As Brene Brown declares, vulnerability is good. And I feel freer, able to embrace this part of me. I love TV. And in conclusion, having reached today’s word goal nine times over, I will now return to “Mare of Easttown.” It’s a murder mystery with Kate Winslet and it’s so, so good.
You should stop reading and go watch.