Thoughts about television

The word television is derived from the Greek tele, far and the Latin visio, sight. Does it really allow us to “see further”? Reading David Foster Wallace’s article, “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction” (The Review of Contemporary Fiction, 1993) in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments has gotten me to think about my reasons for watching tv.

I watch about one to three hours on any given day, but I can easily go without. I’m certainly not one of those people who needs to watch tv. I don’t follow entertainment-related news (or any kind of televised news, for that matter) and I don’t have a good memory for shows, characters, actors, or anything that would require a great deal of watching. At the same time, I’m very glad to not be one of those people who hate tv. As in, “Oh, you watch tv? I think it’s such a mindless waste of time. It’s so fake.

I watch for two reasons. Firstly, because it’s entertaining and fun, and secondly, because it’s interesting to find the angle of any given commercial or show. There’s always an angle. Sometimes the angle is to seem like there isn’t an angle. Sometimes they’re go right ahead and show you their angle in a sort of mockery (the angle here being that anyone who can openly admit to having an angle can’t be all that bad. Commercials are especially good at this). I say ‘good’ instead of ‘guilty’ because my entire point, and the reason I believe that I choose to spend at least one hour a day in front of the tv for, is that it’s interesting to think about these kinds of things. A successful show or commercial is a masterfully crafted piece of art based on statistics and pop culture phenomenon.

So why do I watch tv? I’m not really just watching it. I’m seeing beyond it.

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