My Life as Seen Through Television

Dylan Hintz

Media Criticism and Analysis

Dr. Moeder


My Life as Seen Through Television

To say that sitting on the couch next to my mom watching Rachel and Ross reunite again for one last time in the series finale of Friends saved my family is, oddly enough, not an overstatement. During a terribly tragic fight between myself and my mother late in my high school years, the finale was set to air and I promptly altered my recluse state to sit down in front of the TV and see the seven-year journey come to an end as a family. Television has the greatest potential of any medium to bring people together, whether they are close-knit families or two relative unknowns crossing paths at a water cooler. For me, it has been a window into a vast number of worlds I have never traveled.  When my interest in a program coincides with the potential for other people to share an interest in it, my need to watch it is sufficiently confirmed. Examples of this include J.J. Abrams epic sci-fi mystery Lost and the overly-stylized plastic surgeon drama, Nip/Tuck. These two shows started out and to a degree remain as big hits, both going past three seasons of no less than moderate success. I’ve watched both with my family when at home, and have spent hours jabbering about them with my mom over the phone while away at college. It is a really specific category of usage, but as I would usually prefer to watch films rather than movies, the viewing and discussion of weekly television programs has always been a tool for the survival of my relationship with my mom and brothers.

There are other uses for television than crossing emotional crevices with family members, however. Entertainment is a large part of it. The male-oriented firefighter drama, Rescue Me is probably my all time favorite show, despite an admittedly weak third season. The show not only entertains but provides a strong emphasis on male troubles in a world where female issues are seen as more prominent and the masculine problems are known as superficialities. As a lonely and mostly antisocial high school student in a shocked post-9/11 world, I felt deeply sympathetic to the show and tuned in every week to be there for whatever problems Franco, Mike, Lou, and especially the Emmy Nominated Denis Leary as Tommy, were facing.

To use a famous tagline from the sitcom I first mentioned, “Everybody needs Friends!” Television is not only a tool for people who wish to have something to say socially, but to people who feel lonely in their own mode of life. When I was growing up, starting to finally face the difficulties of manhood, Rescue Me had much appeal. Before that when I was trying to understand how to have fun around crazy girls, I usually tuned into repeats of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Television shows are made to serve needs (hence people as a market), and when I was bored over this past winter break, all I wanted was to sit back and watch something for twelve straight hours that I knew would be at least as intellectually stimulating as most pulp novels. I borrowed my friend Ryan’s box-set of Battlestar Galactica per his pressuring suggestion, as he felt the same way about that show as I had felt about Lost—  a desire to be able to enjoy debating, criticizing, praising, and joking about a piece of entertainment with a friend who was more or less on his own level of understanding.

With that said, my methods of accessing television usually consist of actually watching them through the television itself, whether they be current or in repeat form. If someone suggests something that is just (in their opinion), “outright amazing” such as Firefly or the aforementioned Battlestar Galactica, I will usually ask to borrow their copy of the show, thus guaranteeing my patronage. I myself have never been much of a “downloader” and really only use the internet as a last resort to see clips from shows that have not aired for a long time or that I cannot afford for myself on DVD. My favorite out of that category would be the insanity-based family sitcom, Titus, which I hope to purchase sometime soon as it once again is a show that serves that personal purpose. While the HD generation has been making its move to overtake traditional TV, I still have an old tube-based system sitting in my dorm room, and have no need to spend money to replace it any time soon. I think a big part of television is simply paying attention to it- not what quality you’re paying attention to it in. When I am watching a TV show I am actually invested in, my preference is to turn off my computer monitor and avoid most distractions. Sometimes I work out, but I see that as a way to actually mitigate my fidgety nature and actually focus on the program while at the same time not acting too lazy. Aside from when I’m back at home with my mother and brother, television is usually a one-on-one affair between me and the screen.

My average consumption of television shows that I pay attention to is pretty low in comparison to my movie-watching habits. I will turn to specific movie channels like AMC and TCM when there is nothing else on, but unless their programs are something grandiose like an Arnold Schwarzenegger or Clint Eastwood movie, I will probably just be playing those as background noise for whatever movie project I’m trying to work on for myself. I also have a tendency to avoid commercials like the plague- I have no interest in purchasing whatever they’re selling and the action figure market no longer applies to me at this age. Granted I will usually flip to something else randomly just to avoid the commercials, and doing so will rarely give way to any deeper meaning than the advertisements themselves. What really matters to me is that I am watching something with content— I despise brainless programming— and that at some point I might find it interesting enough to recommend to a friend for my own form of “water cooler chit chat” or whenever there is an awkward moment of silence in a brief or long conversation with my mother.

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