When the sun has faded, the Pacific can be found glimmering in the waning moon. The coast has lost its captive audience. So we turn our eyes to another wonder and slide suddenly into its imaginary world. Primetime television.
From Tuesday’s “Gilmore Girls” to Thursday’s “Survivor Marquesas,” from the audience of “Crime Scene Investigators” to rerun spectators who find themselves attached to last year’s episodes of “Friends” and “Seinfield.” There is a governing force shaping and molding our nighttime affairs.
I admit – I have succumbed to its charm. My wife and I love the simplicity and solace of a Thursday night (for example), which combines dinner, laughter and relaxation all in a two hour, cost-efficient affair.
However, while I am duped by its humor I am not quite yet numbed by its candor. I find myself laughing, but know in fact I would be hysterically crying if the love of my life decided it would benefit our relationship if she “shopped around.” From the hook ups to the fallouts, primetime television has spun its web of falsity on the relational front. It is quick and cunning, but it is a poor counselor.
Television (and the other forms of media art) have a unique opportunity – more than mere entertainment. They are mediums that represent the thoughts, questions and realities of our culture. In 60 minutes a television series can alter, improve upon or dismantle one’s perceptions about love, life and other deep realities. Is this not obvious in shows like “Ed,” or even “ER”?
For example, last Wednesday evening, I escaped to TV land for an hour to follow-up on a recommendation from some friends about the hit show “Ed.” My experience was not pleasant. During the climax of the episode (accompanied by a lamenting piano), a character began describing his justification for having extra marital relationships. He claimed, “That is what marriages do when they are over … they move on.” Yet, there was no claim made about an expected divorce. These blurring of moral lines present a complication.
What is primetime television predominantly expressing about our values, such as love, goodness and commitment?
There seems to be a modernistic highlighting on the competent strength of the individual – a “How can I get my cake and eat it too” mentality. A “how can I control this situation to benefit me” sentiment. There is an egocentric undertone that girds the fundamental ideas backing many of the current hit TV series. And while this may be a very true reality in life, it must be said that selfishness can never provoke a happy sitcom ending. Living life constantly remind us of this – right? We know from the insecure that freedom does not come when we are farther inside ourselves – right?
So tonight when the sun sets behind your Phillip’s Magnavox, and you begin to take the plunge into a fictitious world, remember to think clearly about what is important.