Sunday, April 01, 2007

This Television Life

A few weeks ago, I decided to bake cookies for a friend's birthday party. The first thing I do when I want to bake is to make sure that I have all the ingredients I need. (Seeing as I have a kitchen the size of a minivan, this takes about three seconds, give or take two seconds.) The next thing I do when I want to bake is to select an NPR program to listen to on my computer. I will not listen to anything else — not TV, not music, not live radio — nothing else will do.

When it came time to bake said cookies several weeks back, I decided to check out the "This American Life" site for my listening pleasure. Lo and behold, right there on the homepage I saw these miraculous words: "This Week: What I Learned from TV." That's right — an episode entirely devoted to my favorite pasttime!

Like lightning, I clicked on the text headline. Nothing happened. Then I clicked again and again and again, frantically moving the cursor everywhere that could possibly be a hyperlink, even only in my wildest imagination. Still nothing. Finally, it dawned on me that this was a description of the new episode coming up that week. It was not available for listening because it hadn't happened yet. I was devastated.

But those cookies wouldn't bake themselves, so I selected something from "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" and went about melting a whole stick of butter to fatten up my friends.

Well, I finally just got around to listening to the "What I Learned from TV" episode this afternoon (just for fun this time, no desserts involved — well, except for me eating some poundcake), and I was truly delighted. In general, I enjoy "This American Life," but as an avid TV fan, my listening experience with this particular episode approached what must be my personal public radio zenith. If you are are into TV at all, then you should definitely check it out.

For me, the best part was the incredibly brief Act 4, during which Ira Glass revealed his reaction when "This American Life" was mentioned on "The OC." (Summer refers to it as "that show by those hipster know-it-alls who talk about how fascinating ordinary people are" and then snorts in derision.) I remember watching that episode and being tickled at the allusion because I am, obviously, a "This American Life" type myself. But until listening to this episode of the radio show, I had never thought about what Ira Glass' reaction might have been. I guess it's because I wasn't aware that he also loved "The OC"! That's right — Ira Glass and his wife watched the teen melodrama just as religiously as I did! In fact, they would sing along to the opening music. (If you want to skip right to this part of the episode, you can find it around the 30-minute mark.) This little bit of knowledge is like a trinket that I will treasure always, even more so because just a couple of days ago someone had the nerve to tell me that I only write about bad TV on this blog, and named "The OC" as Exhibit A.

Granted, some of the shows that I write about on this blog are far from what I would describe as high-quality, and I readily admit that. And yes, "The OC" did go through an unfortunate decline in its later years. BUT "The OC" remains one of the smarter and funnier shows of its kind in the end. And if my own opinion isn't enough, now I can say, "If it's good enough for Ira Glass, it should be good enough for you!" (That's right, Janki, I'm talking to you.)

And while we're on the subject, this blog has also covered "Friday Night Lights, old "Gilmore Girls," "Wonder Pets," and my forever love "The West Wing," all of which are critically acclaimed. So there.

But back to my original topic: As is probably patently clear, I am not ashamed of how much enjoyment I get from television. It's a big part of my life, and not only am I okay with that, I embrace it. I embrace it even though as an educated person, I should probably be apalled at how much TV I watch and how critical a role it plays in my life. I have friends who totally understand where I'm coming from, either because they feel similarly or because they are the kinds of people who can wrap their minds around that concept. But I'm sure there are many out there who would sniff haughtily at my earnest love for TV and what I believe it contributes to my peace of mind. To those people, I say, "Suck it."

Or in Ira Glass' more eloquent words, "The things I love, I love completely. And it's totally personal, my feelings about these shows; it's personal in the deepest possible way. ... And I gotta say, every single week it makes me love my wife and love TV and love everything in the world all at once." When you think about it, his response makes perfect sense. Media is a social construction, just like art. One could easily make the argument that television is a form of art, but at the very least, it's incredibly like art. If we can accept that people are moved by their experience with a sculpture or a book, then why shouldn't people be just as affected by TV? And why shouldn't they form strong attachments to their favorite shows, just like with their favorite paintings or poems? Why shouldn't we experience some bliss when we have a good experience with TV? Think about how Ira Glass describes his weekly connection with "The OC" — it awakens something in him, and it just plain makes him happy. In a sense, Ira Glass and I get high off of certain shows, and there's nothing wrong with that.

And no, there wasn't anything "special" in those cookies I was baking, so don't even go there.

(As an added bonus, in this particular episode of "This American Life" all the musical interludes are live performances by the awesome band Mates of State. After you're done with "This American Life" — and only after, if you know what's good for you — you can listen to my fave song of theirs on their MySpace page: www.myspace.com/matesofstate. Also, their fantastic cover of "Caliornia," an already fantastic song by Phantom Planet in its own right and the opening song for "The OC.")

1 Comments:

Anonymous janki said...

okay okay. point taken!!
and a very lovely and passionate argument-

1:49 PM  

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