I’ve been watching a great deal of television as of late – by which I really mean to say, the past three years. I used to think that I only wanted to work in film, to make grande acrylic opus’ of 115 pages – self contained art. A beginning, an end. The medium first appealed to me as the intersection of everything I loved : music, dance, theater, painting, photography. I had watched the Mothlight of Stan Brackage and the Eclipse of Antonioni, I felt the ache of The Graduate and the guilty fluff of Pirates of the Caribbean. To me, TV felt like second hand cinema. Filler for bored children of the attention deficit generation and people home sick from work. Of course there were shows I watched, The Simpson’s was a Sunday night staple in my house for the first 13 years of my life. The first season of The OC, the occasional Episode of Charmed… Friends, blah blah so on and so forth.
Yes, these were all things I flicked on at 2 am when I couldn’t sleep and didn’t want to finish my math homework – but they didn’t inspire feeling in me like the Dustin Hoffman’s post collegiate detachment, like the black and white click clack of tap shoes on 42nd Street, like the spectacle of a film explosion or the reunion of a films formerly star-crossed lovers.
But then, a few years ago, something happened: I discovered better television, and consequently discovered the true power of Television over Film – a deep emotional core that allowed focus on character development and relationships without sacrificing the narrative arc. Suddenly my eyes were opened to the subtly that more time allowed, the evolutionary power of season upon season of: Six Feet Under, Arrested Development, Freaks and Geeks, Dexter, Weeds, True Blood, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Lost, Veronica Mars, Glee, 30 Rock, The Office, Dead Like Me – it was like having my first serious boyfriend; the movies had been fleeting summer flings, memorialized in coffee table photo albums and fond Facebook messages… but these television shows were the real, committed, living together, buying a cat and breaking up painfully kind of deal.
Every passion we have is a relationship. Every human interaction with the natural and creative world a contract in time and space, a molding of intent and emotion within our minds and hearts. Every like and dislike a conscious forming of ourselves and the world around us. It’s hard to be a dedicated television fan, to fall in love with characters who evolve and change week after week and season after season – there’s more room for disappointment in television. Your favorite actor is killed off in season two and it ruins the rest of the series… or perhaps the writing just stops being good. Losing faith in something you once adored and revered is never easy. I feel the ache in this current season of Dexter… the energy is gone, the routine tired, and I feel myself waxing nostalgic about John Lithgow and bathtubs.
It takes more energy to dedicate oneself to a series. It’s draining. It’s time consuming. It’s commitment. Perhaps thats why stand alone-episodic shows like Family Guy and Two and a Half Men are so popular – once the 23 minutes is over, the fan can disconnect, not worry about where their make-believe friends are headed. Because, despite Charlie Sheen’s rampant cocaine addiction, he’ll be back next week, all smiles and one liners to sedate the masses without any real form of commitment.