Why TV Sucks

Television sucks.

It's one of those controversial opinions that doesn't make me many friends.

But I truly believe television, 100%, across the board, no apologies, is evil.

TV is evil.

Two big reasons:

  1. Corporate monopoly of broadcast.
  2. Episodic nature.

Because television content is broadcast through a one-way street, and because so much money and attention is at stake, the media presented is actually extremely controlled.

It may appear willy-nilly, or like simple folk trash, but I assure you (especially from having worked on many shows and commercials) that television content is extremely controlled.

On any given show you could have at least a dozen corporate executives from different industries overseeing the entire production.

That means advertisers, production houses, corporate sponsor executives, media company executives, television channel executives, celebrity wranglers, and so on, are all overseeing the production of the show to ensure THEIR message is being best communicated.

And they use every means of influence available to hit your conscious and subconsious mind.

This is insidious stuff, folks.

None of this has to do with making you a better person, or making the world a better place.

The content is designed to keep you HOOKED, like on a drug, and HYPNOTIZED, in order to sell you their products and captivate your attention on their channel (because your attention is money in the bank for them).

This monopoly of broadcast, this inability for independents to break into the television stream and create content, means the content you see on television is highly controlled with the explicit purpose only to keep you hooked and hypnotized. Not to entertain.

Entertainment is a byproduct of television (or an alibi), but not its primary function.

Often I hear that so-and-so show is different because it's "gritty" or "edgy' or "non-sequitur."

You think the mega media corporations don't have their finger on the pulse of society?

Do you really believe they don't know what the next trend is, before you even do?

If they suspect what people want on television is a darker vision of the world, or an absurdist-farce, or even "anti-television" television, they will deliver it to you on a silver plate.

So long as it supports the television industry. 

So long as it keeps you watching.

The five mega-media companies that own all TV will gladly give you anything that keeps you hooked and hypnotized, in order to sell you their products and capture your attention.

And because television is episodic in nature, the aesthetic formula has been refined to resemble that of an abusive relationship - or a highly addictive drug.

The channels, shows, advertisers, need you to return every week, every day, every hour.

So through decades of observation, trial-and-error, psychological studies, and communication theory, media conglomerates have figured out (and are still figuring out) the best ways to keep you hooked and hypnotized.

The most obvious technique is the satiating of desire, and then unfulfilling it.

This keeps you in a constant state of tension, which needs satisfaction (which you never get).

Think of "Lost" for example.

Everyone NEEDED to know how it ends.

WHAT'S ALL THE MYSTERY ABOUT?

And yet, it couldn't deliver.

The series finale was met with near universal annoyance, and the show disappeared into the blackhole of culture. That's because the show was not designed (the creators admit) with any autonomy in mind.

They simply worked on the principles of constant desire, constant tension.

Why? To keep you hooked.

Satisfaction is not guaranteed with television.

Another technique is the constant pushing-and-pulling between trauma and cuddly-comedy.

These two states resemble the cycle of abusive relationships, and chemically operate like a drug addiction.

The theory is that by inducing a temporary trauma-state, your adrenaline rushes, creating a strong anchor to the content.

Then, just before the moment any natural human being would say "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!" the show gives you a balm, a salve, with some comedic plunking music "bum,bum,bum,bum" and everything is suddenly funny and light.

Ahhhhhhhh. Relief.

Thank you show, for saving me.

I love you show.

Look at that cuddly animal.

OH WAIT!

OH MY GOD!

HIS EYE IS DANGLING OUT OF HIS HEAD!

You get the idea.

Back and forth, back and forth.

This spiking of your brain chemicals, versus the slow steady burn of narrative engagement, keeps you hooked to the show like a drug addict.

Combine that with the technique of constant tension and desire, and you have a deadly cocktail capable of creating media junkies across the world.

Hence our current lingo about "binge watching" like binge eating, or binge drinking.

Yet we act like this is benign, or cute.

It's not. Corporate television is a destructive drug.

Luckily, my man Aristotle agrees:

"Of simple Plots and actions
the episodic are the worst... " - Aristotle

Movies, on the other hand, are completely different.

They're:

  1. Autonomous.
  2. Unlimited in their ability to access resources.
  3. Capable of being independent.
  4. Capable of accessing any and all markets.

That's why the cinema is so important, especially now, in the information age.

 

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