Friday, March 28, 2008

o/ lord I was born a ramblin' writer/speaker/thinker o/


I think it's more than safe to say that of all media, television is the most maligned. Forget Shakespeare's lowbrow roots, forget about the harlequin romance, the incessant repetition of this year's "hits" on 9/10 radio stations, Meet the Spartans...the pollution brought by these wretched works doesn't seem to contaminate their respective art forms the way we have allowed bad television to colour everything we see and hear on the good ol' boob tube (even though most network TV is too tame to show anything remotely resembling the actual female breast...). Videogaming is I think a close second, despite the best efforts of self-appointed moral crusaders. At least games are known to improve co-ordination and problem-solving skills. Television gets pretty much zero good press as a medium.

Which is why it's so awful that I am a sucker for good TV.

If I'm tired enough, I'm a sucker for just about any TV, but that's neither here nor there. No, I'm talking about Farscape, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica (remake), Cowboy BeBop, jPod...intelligent TV. I might as well toss in Mythbusters, Magic School Bus, Robot Chicken, Popular, Buffy, Heroes, and Dead Like Me, while I'm in a listing mood. These shows are all different, but they can be collected into groups, sometimes overlapping. You've straight-up solid writing, acting, and wit; you've got pertinent social commentary; educational value; comedy, romance, psychosis: you have art.

When you think about it, TV is the perfect mirror for society: sure, a lot of it is made with very little thought input, or a great deal of thought is put in to ensure that very little comes out, but either way, a lot of it is the bland homogeneity and routine - filler - required as if by law to stop the masses from discovering existentialism (gotta keep your power sources safely plugged in, after all). But there's always that small, rogue band of people who keep thought alive, with such alien concepts as "plot", "character", and "cinematography". I may be overly melodramatic in casting TV as some kind of socio-political battlefield, but maybe there's something to it. Television has, like Religion, been called "the opiate of the masses", after all. It would certainly explain why intelligent TV tends to get cancelled with alarming regularity: get too subversive, and the Capitalist Oppressor takes you off the airwaves. I think Heroes, Galactica and Farscape managed to hang on (although the latter was cancelled after 4 seasons) by having a strong emphasis on family, which the conservatives must like enough to make up for their boldness elsewhere. Looking deeper, I guess Heroes and Galactica both feature powerful elites making decisions that affect the fate of humanity, and they generally tend to make the right choices. The powerful elites must like that vindication.

So, with new TV comes a new cast of shows to be examined, the ones I've seen at all would be jPod (already in the list of intelligent TV, and duly cancelled), the Sarah Connor Chronicles (which I think survives on overtones of family and religion, as per my theory), and finally Eli Stone, which I'm still evaluating. On the one hand, they did do an episode where a vaccine maker was trying to hide the fact that it's products could cause Autism (dumb, 'cause that myth does not need more support: note how the vast majority of people are non-autistic and immunized? Yeah, I thought you might enjoy your health). This week, though, was much better: they totally took the US government to task for only funding the LIES of Abstinence-only "sex education"! On TV, in front of (hopefully) millions of viewers. I like their style this week, although I wonder if they mean to educate, or just to provoke a different group every week by subverting their usual message somehow? Also, the whole "Eli-as-prophet" storyline has the potential to get really, really annoying and preachy if done wrong.

I guess the bottom line is that Eli Stone has Natasha Henstridge, which should keep at least the male viewers, even in the event of severe shark-jumping.

More on this as my artistic appraisal continues. I think I may just go and watch some more Battlestar Galactica Season 3 (which you should buy or rent or borrow and watch and no they are not paying me, unless you count the part where they're making more for me to watch)


1 comment:

CheeseLikeSubstance said...

[Insert obligatory Farscape mockery here.]

One thing you will note in these instances, though, is that the shows which are most in line with conservative values are not necessarily the most common or the most popular. After all, the "Conservative Oppressor" is in the television gig to make money: what sells is what gets shown. I am as pissed off as anyone else that Firefly was mishandled and then cancelled, but it is difficult to blame it on any sort of oppressive capitalist conspiracy when it is a fairly cut-and-dried case of poor management skills.

Furthermore, you will note that, in popular entertainment, the large corporation is *always* the villain (Well, unless it's a scientist or politician), to the point where it becomes sickeningly predictable. What you will notice, though, is that these messages are consistently anti-establishment.

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