Don’t Throw Away the TV

by limebirdlaura

I read, a lot. I wish I could make a profession out of reading, that would be some form of Heaven for me.

I wake up and take my book with me into the living room. I go to work and sit it on my desk. At night I can hardly sleep because I can never manage to put my book down. It’s a problem, a sickness really.

Guess what? I also watch a lot of TV and if I could somehow manage it would probably be watching movies 24/7. The television set doesn’t take away from my desire to read.

I’m always a bit miffed with folks that try to turn the TV into the bad guy. Like it’s some monster that sneaks into children’s bedrooms when the lights go out, whispering white-noise subliminal messages about how evil and uncool books are.  The TV does this night after night until everyone is a brain dead zombie who wants nothing more than to sit in front of it worshiping it and its mindless soul crushing dribble.

Yes, there are programs out there that have absolutely no point to them other than mindlessly pass the hours by. Most reality programming falls into this category.

But these haters of the television set seem to forget one thing – the show began as a story written down on a piece of paper. A group of actors didn’t come together with perfect hair and perfect make-up and augmented bodies and just open their mouths and some sort of television magic makes a story out of it (no, that’s the editors job…). Someone or a group of someones sat in a room talking about what those characters should be doing and saying and then they wrote that story down in the form of a script and handed it to all of the actors to do their acting magic with it.

And if you really look at the good programming out there – it’s inspiring, thought provoking…anything a good book can be.

I’m only speaking of shows I’ve watched of course so I know some of these may not be around world-wide, but think of shows like Breaking Bad, Justified, Dexter, Weeds, Arrested Development, Gilmore Girls, Parenthood, Supernatural, American Horror Story….the list goes on and on. Those are mostly modern shows, it doesn’t begin to crack the surface of the powerful storytelling there can be found on the airwaves.

These shows can provoke just as interesting a conversation with my husband, friends and family, just as much as any good book can. For me, when shows like these end for the season, or for good, I get that same feeling I get when I’ve finished an amazing book – that I suddenly miss my best friends and have an instant urge to just rewind and start back over at the beginning. This is good story telling in my eyes, regardless of the medium it is presented.

So please, for the love of all forms of writing – don’t throw away your television.

Does anyone agree or disagree? What are all of your favorite shows?

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27 Comments to “Don’t Throw Away the TV”

  1. Limebird Laura, I can SO relate to your beginning comment…I wish I could make a living out of just reading books. 🙂 But you are right about the TV too…I DO NOT watch reality TV…HATE it…HATE the idea of people making money for making fools of themselves, but I do like good shows: I watch Justified and Downton Abbey,etc…there are some good shows (usually not on the biggest stations).

    • Wouldn’t that just be amazing? I could handle a job like that!

      I am not a big fan of reality TV either, the one I do like a lot is Face Off where they make movie creatures, that one I enjoy watching. Justified is based on the town I was born in! I LOVE Timothy Olyphant…and the story of course 😉

      • Wow…you are from Kentucky?? I lived in Knoxville for a time…I drove around a lot, drove around Kentucky and thought it was beautiful.
        I also LOVE Timothy Olyphant…Deadwood was one of my favorite TV shows ever. 🙂

    • Yep, born and raised in the mountains 🙂 My papaw was actually the mayor of Harlan where a bunch of the action takes place in Justified for about 12 years. The mountains are really pretty, I really love them this time of year when all the leaves turn, so pretty!

  2. I totally agree. TV is not the bad guy. I don’t watch a lot but when I do turn it on, I want to be entertained the same as with a good book. I love movies, but for the past few years there are a lot or repeats. I also love going to the movie theatre because the screen is so big and one can truly get lost in the story. However, I rather watch movies at home, and you’re right. These stories didn’t just happen. Someone had to work out the plot and the story on paper first. 🙂

  3. Good post Laura, agree with you, don’t like reality tv and won’t watch it – but why does quality tv also have to teach my child how to smoke and/or sell pot and crack? I understand that these shows must have some good story lines and things going on in them, but that doesn’t redeem the show for me personally. Personal choices. I can see that they want to make it more like real life and all that, but my life so far has not required detailed knowledge on drug handling and I’m hoping my child’s won’t either. TV does have a great deal to offer but like anything else, we have to be wary of its use.

    • I definitely think there is a time and place to watch certain shows, and kids shouldn’t be watching them at all that are showing drug use or criminal activity etc. The thing for me about shows like Weeds, Dexter, Breaking Bad etc is that the protagonists are anti-heroes. These are people that if you read about in the paper or met on the street you would be disgusted by them…but these writers manage to write these characters and their story lines in a way that make them compelling, make you love and root for them. Why would you root for a serial killer? I dunno but Dexter Morgan is so compelling as a character you can’t help but love him! But I agree with what you’re saying not only for TV, movies, but also books and things – be wary when kids are involved.

  4. I absolutely agree with you. There are many outstanding programs, some of which provide inspiration for writing.

    • A lot of times for me some of the greatest shows out there are more compelling than any books I’ve read. Thanks for the comment!

  5. I watch a good bit of TV in the evenings, because by then I’m pooped out, and I just want to sit and be entertained. Occasionally I’ll come back to the computer, but when I do, I hardly ever produce anything worthwhile.
    I’m not exclusively high-brow by any means, but I do like shows I can learn from. I watch a lot of PBS. I love nature documentaries. I watch Antiques Roadshow and did watch the wonderful orlginal British version until my stupid PBS moved it to 10:00pm, when I’m usually in bed. I admit to being an NCIS fan. I liked Downton Abbey pretty well, although it’s really just an elegant soap opera. I hate reality shows unless they are the kind where funny or charismatic people are actually doing something, and maybe you can learn something from it. I admit to enjoying American Pickers and River Monsters (I didn’t know all those huge, fierce freshwater fish existed). But shows like Dancing with the Stars and all that car and gun and motor cycle stuff on History and Discovery – forget those! Also, forget the pseudo-history stuff like Ancient Aliens. And one last thing – I watch professional hockey, notably the Colorado Avalanche! So I’ve confessed!

    • It’s shows like Real World that make me want to beat my head into the wall, but I will admit to loving some reality shows like Face Off, and for some reason Ink Master though for the life of me I can’t really explain why. I’ve always loved hockey too! Downton Abbey has been on my to-do list for a long time, one of these days I’m actually going to sit down and watch the darn thing.

  6. You COULD make a living out of reading. You could become a literary critic…or a literary agent, perhaps? I don’t know for sure but I’m sure it’s not completely out of the scope of possibility.

  7. I miss TV. I don’t get to watch it nearly enough. I am so wanting to watch Downton Abbey because I hear awesome things about it, but I have no time. I think that TV is just like you say — it is a story, and a lot of them are pretty good. I think some of those writers are amazing — how they can twist plots and keep us entrenched in the storyline and develop the characters every season? That is talent, we have to admit.

    Can’t stand reality TV, though. If I could ban anything, it would be reality TV.

    • My husband and I have gotten into a bad habit of just binge watching shows (thank you Netflix!) and right now we’re about halfway through with How I Met Your Mother, and the thing that surprises me about that show is that you wouldn’t think it would have really drawn out compelling story lines, because it’s a comedy about some not-so-intelligent people, but they will mention something in one episode, then it will show up 4 episodes later, then 2 seasons later they’ll actually explain it. They have to put a lot of time and thinking into those scripts!

  8. Yes I agree, there’s a lot of snobbery about watching television, but there’s such a lot of talent and skill that goes into making these shows. I don’t watch much, I just don’t have the time for it, but I’d definitely LIKE to watch much more, and I’d like to read much more. I’ve barely watched any of the big well known TV shows of the last few years – I just watched my first ever episode of Breaking Bad this week, the first pilot episode, and then episodes 2 and 3 too! Catching up with them on Netflix. Like you say, there’s a lot of great writing that goes into these shows. In terms of trashy/reality type shows, I’m afraid I am a bit of sucker for the talent competition type ones, whether it’s singing, dancing, or cooking! But it’s just entertainment, if I want to do something mindless. And even those must involve some kind of writing in the background.

    • I’m not a total realty show snob, I really like Face Off where they compete to make movie creatures and monsters and stuff, totally up my alley! Oh gosh I love Netflix, that’s how I got started on Breaking Bad too!

  9. We don’t have a TV. We do have an iMac that we use to watch movies that we select on Netflix. I rarely have time to watch movies. It seems I’m always doing something else. My husband will “binge” watch entire seasons on Netflix into the wee hours of the night if he has time. I require 8-9 hours of sleep to function, so I can’t do this. Also, I seem to recall a study that found the body’s metabolism is lower while watching TV than when sleeping. Something to keep in mind if the middle starts to bulge. Final thought: if I have the time, I choose to read or write or take a walk outside.

    • I am guilty of binge watching thanks to Netflix myself. My husband and I watched all of Orange is the New Black in one weekend, by Sunday afternoon we probably looked like vampires because we had been stuck inside for so long! I definitely don’t do that often but there was something about that show we just couldn’t tear ourselves away.

  10. Laura, I think your TV and mine have the same brain. 🙂 I love watching Justified, for example, and hearing Elmore Leonard come out of Timothy Olyphant’s or Walton Goggins’s mouth. (And am I the only one who thinks that show may be about Raylan Givens, but Boyd Crowder is the real star?)

    This is a great post, because writers often forget that television is a medium just as valuable as the published poem or novel. The self-proclaimed intelligentsia poo-pooh TV for some of the reasons you mention, and, while some of those reasons are valid (Reality TV, I’m looking at you), TV/video production is a much more engaging process than writing alone tends to be. A writer can collaborate with a beta reader or editor, but the sheer number of different people and different perspectives involved in bringing a great video production (either television or film) to life is untouched by any other medium. Comics run a far second. They follow the same collaborative principle, but the population involved is so much smaller, it can’t truly compare.

    The last few seasons of Dexter weren’t as strong as earlier ones, in my personal opinion, but I do distinctly remember one episode in Season 7(?) that really stuck with me. It was directed by Ernest Dickerson, who has a great track record in his own right, but he brought all these visual and storytelling elements together in such a bold way (Dexter retells the story of the crime in a barroom mirror, with splashes of bloody color and interesting angles, and a moody light scheme that made the whole thing feel very surreal), it really stood out. That was an example of television working its magic beyond what words alone would have done.

    Thanks for this post. It helped me remember a little bit why production has always fascinated me.

    • I love Boyd! When Raylan and Boyd get together it’s pure entertainment all the way. They’ve started teasing the next season beginning in January with clips of Boyd… I cannot wait!

      I haven’t watched past I think season 4 or 5 of Dexter but I’ve heard the same, that it wasn’t as strong as earlier stuff.

      Now that I think about it both of these shows were based on books…hmmmm.

  11. Laura,

    My wife and I are also bingers. With DVDs we are spoiled, no having to be in at the same time every week, no having to wait a whole week for the next episode (and the season breaks!!!!!).

    I have just started re-watching The West Wing and, once again, I am blown away by the quality of the writing. (When I first watched it I did all 154 episodes in under two months!) Just watch the first episode of season one, almost all of the major characters are introduced in a natural way, giving insights into them as people, and the whole feel of the show is put out there for everyone to see. I don’t think I have ever seen a more confident opening episode.

    Then (I think it was a Fox show) there’s The Shield. Generally, though, in terms of looking at the writing, I would say that it is some of the HBO series that I love. I have complete sets of Dexter, The Wire, The Sopranos, Deadwood, etc.

    When TV is done well, it allows you to really get to know the character (and throw some major curve balls when you think you know them!) which, as a writer, is what keeps me watching TV.

    When I just want a quick bit of relaxation I often end up watching cookery shows 😉

    • My mom got me hooked on Dexter because she just kept saying how completely weird it was to love a character that’s a serial killer… I had to watch that! The bad thing is I’ve not gotten past I think season 4 or so, they had it on Netflix, then took it off, now they’ve added it back but still only through the 4th season, darn them!

      Your watching of The West Wing sounds like how I was with Law and Order SVU, I’d always caught the episode here and there on TV, but Netflix put the whole run on at once point and I watched through them all, probably around 2 months as well or so.

      Netflix is really spoiling my husband and I when it comes to TV shows… I LOVE IT!

  12. Agree! I love stories in any form–on the page, on the screen, on the ice, stage, whatever. I’ll also admit I canceled my cable in favor of Hulu to make myself cut down on mindless TV and be more selective in my viewing. It’s making for a good balance. Thanks for a great post!

  13. There are certain shows we watch and are loyal too and they are great examples of storytelling and can be good conversations starters, shows can be evaluated/discussed the way books are, so I agree with you that too often we make TV out to be the bad guy. I’m in a book club that meets monthly, but I wonder why there aren’t any TV clubs…hm…may have to think of starting one…
    I think TV watching can be bad if it consumes too much time and we turn off our brains when we watch it (unless we’ve been busy and our tired brains need the break). By consuming too much time I mean when watching TV gets in the way of our goals and projects whether they be writing or in my case, painting.

  14. I quite agree with you. TV isn’t that good, yet it isn’t that bad. TV, like any other thing in our lives depends on the way we use it. There are good programs to be watched, they’re rich of information and can be very useful. On the other hand, there are many books that never add any value. Thanks for sharing, have a good day. 🙂

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