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television, the drug of the nation

Here's something that annoys me: people who think that the radio is somehow morally and intellectually superior to the television. Or that there is something inherently and automatically good about not ever watching television, rather than it being a matter of personal taste.

I applaud those who don't have televisions (especially in the face of TV Licence people assuming they HAVE to have one, because how could they live without it?), and I am a firm believer in the telly ONLY being on for specific programmes, and then being turned off. I hate flicking, I hate watching TV for the sake of it, and I actually don't watch much TV (just Coronation Street, Peep Show and Bleak House, at the moment, and the odd special documentary or drama. I never turn it on during the day). And of course, Radio 4 is on almost constantly in my house (because that's not the same as having the telly on! OR IS IT?!) But, there are a lot of fantastic things on television, and to dismiss it wholesale is the ultimate in genre snobbery.

But where is this snobbery? Well, everyone's encountered people who announce that they don't ever watch television in the same tones they might use to announce that they don't, I dunno, have sex with sheep. And you see it, alas, in my fellow Radio 4 lovers, particularly the Archers message boards, where TV soaps (or "tele" soaps, because heaven forfend they should actually spell telly the common way) are constantly compared to the glories of Ambridge. But here's the thing: Coronation Street is much, much better than the Archers. It's more melodramatic, but it's better written, it's often better plotted, and the acting is, in general, better. Also, it is frequently intentionally hilarious, and we all know what happens when the Archers tries to be funny. I love the Archers, I love its slow pace, I find it totally addictive. But, as drama, Corrie is a superior work of art. And yet, comparing TA to Corrie is seen as the ultimate insult by many Archers fans. Because Corrie is on the telly, and the Archers are on the sainted Radio 4. So they are automatically superior.

So basically, I abhor genre snobs. I don't read much (any?) science fiction, BUT I would never dismiss the entire genre, because I know there are really good science fiction books, and I've read some of them. Likewise fantasy, or romance, or chicklit. Also, one of the (few) things being a professional critic ahs taught me is to distinguish between something that is a good, well-crafted piece of art and something that I actually like myself. Basically, just because something's not my sort of thing doesn't mean it's not good. I wish genre snobs could figure this one out.



( 31 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 22nd, 2005 11:39 am (UTC)
Hear hear! Or here here! Or hyr hyr! Or something!

Hey, are you around town this afternoon? I might nip in for around 4:30. Possibly.
Nov. 22nd, 2005 11:40 am (UTC)
Gah, no, alas, I have to stay in and wait for a courier! But I should be around tomorrow, if you are free?

Did you get my mail about the table quiz tomorrow, by the way?
(no subject) - jane_the_23rd - Nov. 22nd, 2005 11:42 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 22nd, 2005 11:49 am (UTC)
well, i wholeheartedly agree with your post apart from the fact that the archers is clearly better than Corrie... *puts up fists*
Nov. 22nd, 2005 12:19 pm (UTC)
But the horror of the Archers trying to be funny! The only time it ever made me laugh (and I've been listening for years) was when Joe Grundy was trying to get Lynda to give him the part of Scrooge, and kept going around quoting his lines, greeting Lynda with "but lo, what is this hideous apparition?" and the like. On-form Coronation Street, on the other hand, is better than most sitcoms.
(no subject) - garlikboy - Nov. 22nd, 2005 12:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - stellanova - Nov. 22nd, 2005 01:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - garlikboy - Nov. 22nd, 2005 01:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - biascut - Nov. 22nd, 2005 02:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - garlikboy - Nov. 22nd, 2005 05:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 22nd, 2005 12:03 pm (UTC)
Yes! People who are genre snobs are morally inferior to people who aren't!

Oh, wait, the point...
Nov. 22nd, 2005 12:12 pm (UTC)
Heh! But, does the label "snob" imply a moral judgement? Of course, one can go round in circles forever, until one hits the cultural equivalent of the "if you're so tolerant, you pinko liberal, why aren't you tolerant of my horrible bigoted views?" argument!
Nov. 22nd, 2005 12:19 pm (UTC)
I've never encountered either Corrie or The Archers, so I've no bone to pick. But yes, anti-TV snobbery - literature departments now seem to have grasped that creative people today have the option of making films rather than novels/plays, that many choose to do so, and that films are worthy of analysis and study. But TV was still beneath notice when I left Literary Studies, a few years ago now.

I didn't have a TV when I was last in Dublin, partly because I was too lazy and disorganised to buy one, and partly because I knew I'd only watch it. I'm prone to addictions, and I'd just sit there and flick all day and night, if I could. Also, I was living by myself, and for me, watching TV alone should be like drinking alone - only in small doses, unless the wine is devastatingly good. In company, it's a different matter. But I never felt that not having a television was morally superior, it was a personal choice. I suppose the difference is that if you're watching TV, it's difficult to do anything else. I've tried ironing in front of the TV, and you can't, without missing things. And I don't knit. Whereas you can theoretically be doing virtuous housework while listening to the radio.
Nov. 22nd, 2005 12:38 pm (UTC)
But I never felt that not having a television was morally superior, it was a personal choice.

Yeah, that's what I understand - I don't expect everyone to like the same things, or living the same way. It's just thinking that a (very broad) matter of personal taste - an entire medium - is inherently superior that bothers me.

suppose the difference is that if you're watching TV, it's difficult to do anything else. I've tried ironing in front of the TV, and you can't, without missing things. And I don't knit. Whereas you can theoretically be doing virtuous housework while listening to the radio.

That's one of the things I love about the radio, because I am very easily distracted - I love having Radio 4 on while I do housework, or knit. And I often do miss things on television because I start reading something, or knitting!
Nov. 22nd, 2005 12:20 pm (UTC)
The main reason I don't watch TV in the UK is that y'all have 'seasons' that are six episodes long, so by the time I realize something is on and get my mind set up to remember when it's on, it's over! Doctor Who was the only show I stuck with (Rome, except of the being cut up thing, so I'm going to watch downloaded versions, else I would watch them on the BBC). I've been watching Qi and HIGNFY, and like the Kumars at Number 42, but it seems so entirely random when they are actually airing.

Former supervisor of mine said she likes the Archers because if she goes away for weeks or even months, she can come back and always pick up right away. :) I presume that's true of ANY soap opera to some extent, though.
Nov. 22nd, 2005 12:41 pm (UTC)
kulfuldi summed up my views pretty well. I haven't watched TV regularly since I left home at 17, and for the four years before that I was at boarding school where we only were allowed to watch an hour a week. Never had a television what I was at university; I had one for the last two years I lived in London but I was so rarely home in the evenings that I never got into the habit of watching it - and while Mark and I have a phsyical television, for the sake of DVDs, we're never hooked it up to the aerial. We're both pretty desensitised to TV; if there's one around we'll stare at it, mesmerised, for hours, and I don't think either of us would have enough willpower to limit ourselves to certain programmes, so it's better to remove the temptation entirely. We tend to hear about good shows from friends or the media, and then watch them on DVD - the only annoying aspect of this is that we're generally watching months after something originally aired, and so miss out on being able to discuss it with other people, but that's a fairly small price to pay.

Um, my point? Oh, I remember - my lack of TV is nothing to do with snobbery, but rather the reverse - I love soaps, I love talk shows, I love reality shows, I love boring sitcoms - my love for trashy TV is such that if I had a television, I fear I'd never switch it off. That's how it is on my parents' house, and I really don't like it.
Nov. 22nd, 2005 01:10 pm (UTC)
Hmmmm, I can take or leave TV - in that, I don't like watching if for hours, and never really want to. When I was growing up, we watched an hour or so of children's telly in the afternoons (not every day, and very seldom in the summer) and we watched Saturday Superstore or whatever on Saturday mornings, but that was basically that, and my parents didn't watch all that much telly so it was more likely to be off than on until after we were in bed. So maybe that's why I can have one without slipping into the flicking/all day trap! I find it really annoying when P's brother David flicks - which he does - but when P and I are alone in the house we're more likely to have music on than the telly (I do find domestic silence a bit unnerving, but if you'd met all my family you'd undestand why! We don't really do silence).
(no subject) - jeejeen - Nov. 22nd, 2005 03:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 22nd, 2005 01:18 pm (UTC)
I own a tv but it just gets used for dvds because frankly, I wouldn't pay good money for half the stuff that's on air in the UK right now. Any tv show that interests me is generally US-ian at the moment and I have to download it/wait for people to send me cds.

Also, I find its best that I don't have a tv because, well, the internet distracts me enough. I do find myself falling into the habit of watching tv obsessively when I go home (although, I find myself in the documentary channels most of them time so it's educational? In a way....)

I wouldn't say that radio or books or whatever is better than tv. People who do annoy me, they're all valid forms of media. For every excellent program, there's dreck and the same goes for books and such.

That said, I still don't get the cult of Soap Operas but I think that's a cultural thing because I didn't watch a great deal of TV as a kid due to the boycott and what I did get to see ranged from scary Zulu tv shows (man, you haven't lived till you've seen a small demon rip out of someone's stomach on day time tv!), The odd episode of Dallas/Bold and the Beautiful and wacky British comedy, taped by my gran. Oh, and Afrikkans dubbed Dutch kids tv shows.
Nov. 22nd, 2005 01:41 pm (UTC)
Basically, just because something's not my sort of thing doesn't mean it's not good.


I am perfectly happy to admit that something can be good even if I don't like it (or that something I like is, in all reality, quite terrible). Personal taste is not a marker of quality, but it's amazing how often people get those two confused.
Nov. 22nd, 2005 02:27 pm (UTC)
I think you're missing the important distinction here: The Archers is about middle-class people with common people for comic relief, and the telesoaps are about common people with middle-class people for comic relief. Of course the former is Superior!
Nov. 22nd, 2005 02:31 pm (UTC)
I NEED a pocket sized replica of you that I can just point at people who piss me off, so you can say things like that to them.
(no subject) - stellanova - Nov. 22nd, 2005 03:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 22nd, 2005 02:30 pm (UTC)
I fart in the general direction of culture
The TV is for dvds - until some magical day when I get tivo or some such gadget, then it will be for 24 hour marathons of CSI and MI5/Spooks. And I watch them in old faded blue yoga pants with a small hole in one knee, while eating Captain Crunch cereal out of a box with a spoon. Now that's class.
Nov. 22nd, 2005 04:00 pm (UTC)
Re: I fart in the general direction of culture
I love you.
Nov. 22nd, 2005 03:57 pm (UTC)
everyone's encountered people who announce that they don't ever watch television in the same tones they might use to announce that they don't, I dunno, have sex with sheep

Hee! Too funny. I must admit to being a bit insufferable at times about my lack of TV watching, but I think it mostly comes out when people come to my house and their jaw hangs slack and agape for about ninety-eight hours when they find out that I don't have one, or when they ask in shocked towns WTF I do with myself. I generally don't tell those people about my internet addiction, heh.

Meanwhile, the part where you don't sit in front of the TV flipping through channels in a desperate hope that something will distract you is exactly why you've earned the right ot have a tv. I, on the other hand, will watch Magic Bullet infomercials until 5am if someone doesn't come and haul me away.
Nov. 22nd, 2005 04:01 pm (UTC)
and by "shocked towns" i mean um, shocked tones. Hello, time for coffee!
Nov. 22nd, 2005 04:45 pm (UTC)
Well, yeah. I got me a buncha degrees and I read genre fic and fanfic and cereal boxes and watch "Cops." And "Law & Order." And PBS showings of BBC stuff what y'all saw last year or the year before, probably.

None of it seems to have done me any harm. I mean, I was weird already.
Nov. 22nd, 2005 05:52 pm (UTC)
And of course, when radio first came in, it was going to rot the children's minds! because they would never read a book again.
Nov. 22nd, 2005 09:51 pm (UTC)
I'm finally accepting that I'm not happy without television in my life. I've gone spells where I watch little to none, and I'm always miserable and don't function well. Whereas, when I'm strict about my TV (I watch X at Y time, et cetera), I really really win at life.

It's a medium that works for me. It's a medium that teaches me lots of stuff, both useful and pedantic, and there's no doubt in my mind that I'm smarter and better educated for being addicted to TV, even when not everything I watch is Quality.
( 31 comments — Leave a comment )


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