Television programs can help shape society
by PHILIP POOLE
This article originally appeared in The Tiger on October 6, 2006 | PRINT

I have a dream. In this dream, Dr. Gregory House is called for an emergency consult for Dr. Webber at the Seattle Grace Hospital, which has a new surgical resident in the form of Dr. Christopher Turk. House brings his whole team, which leads to fun times when Dr. Cameron and Dr. Stevens start fighting over an irresistibly cute but ultimately terminal patient while Dr. Chase and Dr. Yang fight over who can suck up the most to their boss. Dr. Foreman and Dr. Shepherd compare brain surgery stories while Dr. Turk and Dr. Burke discuss bodily surgery. Dr. House determines that the best way to proceed is to use the skills of a plastic surgeon to fix the patient's insides (because plastic surgeons can make smaller stitches). Dr. Addison Shepherd calls Mark, who recommends Dr. McNamara and Dr. Troy from Miami. The plot thickens when Dr. McNamara and Dr. Grey find that their hurt souls could do each other good and Dr. Troy makes an offhand remark about Dr. Stevens having been a model. Now the legal teams need to get involved and it's off to the courtroom where the law offices of Crane, Poole & Schmitt must face off against the dream team of Trott, Nicholson, Tuller & Graves.

As you can see, I watch way too much television. But television has going for it something that no other media can claim: flexibility. Sure, 30-minutes and an hour are the standards, but 15-minute and two-hour shows are not uncommon. And then there's the continuity: seasons span almost an entire day of video, and shows regularly run for multiple seasons. And that's just the length! Subject matter, animation or live action and soundtracks; television can tell stories like nothing else.

We study novels that were originally published in small installments in magazines. Dickens, among others, wrote profusely and was a celebrity in his own time. If that qualifies as literature, why can't more time be devoted to studying television? Nothing in our lifetime or our parent's lifetime (or even our grandparent's lifetime, though they might have gotten more from the radio) has the kind of control over culture that the television has. Television gives us a sense of national unity, gives us a sense of community and if we start watching it early enough, teaches us to speak with non-regional inflection and dialect. Television is great.

That said, television also has a great capacity for evil. Nightly news shows increase When Animals Attack 72: Bears in SUVs. Nothing is more depressing than having to see real life played out on a medium that is expressly not real. It's like asking Picasso to stencil your bathroom: a complete waste of potential. Every year, just after the start of fall semester, each broadcasting company offers forth its fruits to the god of the Popular Opinion. And each year, some of them need to be punished for not offering their best. Who needs another variation of the Crime Scene Investigators theme? And whose idea was The House of Carters? I didn't like them when they were famous, why waste my time with them as has-beens? I'm sick of bad comedies and over-dramatic dramas. Give me something worth watching, give me something entertaining, give me something on television shows, I'd much rather watch them a season at a time without commercials. If you've ever watched a television show on DVD then you know what I mean: DVDs offer a completely new world to the television viewer. Missed that last line? Rewind and watch again. Something bugging you about continuity? Whip out last season and fill yourself in. The bonus features and commentaries are an added bonus, allowing the viewer to go into the world of creation and bringing even more depth to the show.

So I say invite all your friends together and watch what everyone else is watching. It will help keep you informed of social trends and hey, it's entertaining.

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