Day 14/15: the Past and Future of Television Part 1&2

*Although this was a two part blog, I just added on to the original one to keep continuity of thought.  So I’m not cheating on my 30 Day Challenge, everyone :)*

I have been watching television since “The Adventures of Dink the Dinosaur” appeared on the 12-inch Panasonic in my parents’ living room.  I also remember watching a trailer for the gangster movie classic “Juice” which looking back is a very odd trailer to appear during a Saturday morning cartoon.

Years have passed since the days I would build Lego kingdoms while watching Dink conquer the prehistoric world (yes, I assure you, I was a little girl), and yet television, I would venture, has not changed very much at all.  Our entertainment industry, though its venues and mediums have grown increasingly refined and expensive, remains governed by the same basic archetypes.

The Medical Drama

It comes on at about 9:00pm Eastern Standard Time.  Actually it might come on at 8:00. To be utterly vulnerable with my readers, I have no idea what to do when the shows are advertised as “at 8/9 Central”. For me, it’s a crapshoot.  But back to my point: The Medical Drama will never die, which is not meant to be a terrible pun.  The Medical Drama will reinvent itself, probably on ABC, and will most assuredly consist of a woman with a past and a man with an accent whose wild ways need to be tamed.  The Medical Drama is a rare hybrid of the soap opera and the “freak of the week” template, which demands its protagonist to solve a complex and rare medical problem while maintaining unresolved romantic tension and some killer hair.  Again, no pun is intended.  The Medical Drama will run a few years until its writers run out of DSM symptoms and handsome actors/actresses begin movie careers.

Warning: Possible side effects of The Medical Drama include a false sense of medical knowledge and the growing concern that you have whatever rare disorder you see misrepresented on the show.  Additional warning: WebMD is not an acceptable diagnostic tool in these instances, as turning off your television is far more effective. 

The Family Sitcom

Immensely popular for many years, the Family Sitcom has recently changed forms but not substance.  For years we watched as families “just like us” plus of course, an unwelcome and strange neighbor/cousin/nephew/handyman faced the challenges of life with laughter, love, and theme music.  I think it might have disillusioned us to how quickly things could be solved in fact, as we silently wished for our own laugh track when dropping a carton of eggs on the freshly mopped floor.  In recent years, we stopped wanting to be told when to laugh and the guiding track was dropped from modern sitcoms such as in the aptly named “Modern Family.”  It was, in this case, replaced by the interview-style mockumentary format. But the neatly packaged lessons remain firmly intact, and will hopefully inspire generations to come to solve all their problems in 30 minutes.

The Talk Show

Mark my words and mark them now, as long as boredom exists, talk shows will flourish.  As long as television and movie personalities are washed up against the shore of old age and irrelevance, cable talk shows will provide them a way to accept the changes with grace.  As long attractive people with interesting signs stand outside television studios, audiences will be needed to fill the stadium seating.  As long as raising starlets need to be clothed, designers need to be publicized and desks need to be seated at, I say unto you they will be clothed publicized and filled. The American Talk Show will never die so long as we have ears to hear.  Forever and ever, amen.

The Teenage Dramedy

It’s the launching pad for many young actors and actresses before they go on to develop a publicized drug addiction, an even more publicized rehab stint and a tattoo in the shape of a butterfly, which is real fame.  Cable networks will air a teenager with a quirky best friend, a friendly neighbor boy who isn’t attractive until the fourth season when he gets contact lenses, and completely clueless parents.  A malicious sibling or schoolyard nemesis provides the needed conflict and there is inevitably a theme song sequence that includes cartoons of some kind.  The hero/heroine of the Teenage Dramedy contemplates life lessons and faces issues that will be solved quickly and forgotten about in all subsequent episodes.  The Teenage Dramedy is a staple of young adulthood that we all watch it far longer than we’d dare admit.

The Political Agenda-Driven Cop Shows *AKA Attractive Lawyers*

If you’re not into the soap opera of The Medical Drama and you’re in for some grittier than The Family Sitcom and absolutely love non-subtle political agendas, then this is your show.  The weekly topics mirror our own headlines to the point of being considered dramatized versions of the news itself, yet in this world we have a near guarantee of justice at the hands of a lawyer, cop, detective or judge who is easy on the eyes.  One interesting calling card of this television genre is the frequent use of a flawed character that we like, but is rough around the edges or prone to a destructive habit, which makes them both admirable but relatable at the same time.  The bad side effect of watching these shows in excess is a false sense of law knowledge and may make you feel over-qualified for jury duty, which I and every real cop/lawyer/detective/judge out there will assure you is not remotely the case.

Reality Television and Game Shows

If there be anything that hints at the death of television as we know it, it would be these recently evolved beasts.  While scripted television has not exactly decreased, scripted television of a different kind has been enjoying a steady rise to the top.  The Reality Show satisfies both the audience’s appetite for drama and the human’s desire for superiority.  Looking for a hot mess against which to compare yourself and feel better?  Reality Television provides the perfect canvas.  Watch, and feel smarter than those who, as you watch, may in fact be making you dumber.  It’s a fascinating paradox.  The formula for a reality show is simple.  Find a group of people who possess detestable/admirable/unique qualities and fix/showcase/challenge them before an audience.  I would imagine these shows to be relatively low budget and easy to produce since crazy people, their unifying trait, can be found everywhere.  Reality Television, in this humble blogger’s opinion, has just gotten started.  After all, there are only so many different stories that the other fictive shows can embody, whereas human ridiculousness exists in infinite quantities and forms.

I realize there are more shows I have not yet mentioned and more worth mentioning.  But I wanted to go through some of the basics if for no other reason than to point out that there is, as Solomon said, nothing truly new under the sun.  Television, from Dink the Dinosaur to the Real Housewives of New Jersey to House MD, will continue to shine brightly in millions of living rooms, inventing and reinventing itself with the times so long as welcome it, and even (as the Jersey Shore proves) when we do not.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: