TV is for Dummies…Or is it?


Getting a much welcomed respite from work this week has afforded me many sweet indulgences. For one, sleeping in, which medical experts duly advise against, but I’m sure you’ll agree is one of the few heavenly pleasures us mere mortals get to enjoy, eating, although if I overindulge, I could very well develop love handles that certainly won’t get no love from me, and lastly, catching up with my good ol’ friend the tube.

Of all the things you can do to engage your cerebral matter, sitting in front of the television probably isn’t one of them. Still, we willfully engage in the mindless pursuit of watching back-to-back episodes of Mob Wives and other fluffy entertainment for reasons unbeknownst to us. Well, that’s not entirely true, now is it? I know exactly why I waste precious time in front of my computer screen (I don’t actually own a television, though I watch plenty of it on my laptop.) On those particularly dreadful days (and the six months out of the year this fair city turns into an arctic abyss of death), when I wish nothing more than to forget my woes (and that God-awful nuisance otherwise known as winter), the friendly and overly sentimental fictitious world of  the inhabitants of the tube provides the ideal escape. Still, there are more productive and healthy ways to get away from our routine day-to-day and the lacklustre things that go along with it, such as hitting the gym, taking in some art, writing, going on a road trip perhaps…

But despite its poor reputation, I’d like to make a case for the usefulness of sometimes sitting on the couch and getting reacquainted with TV and its many incarnations (web TV or simply TV shows made available online if, like me, you’ve chucked the physical box out on the curb a long time ago):

TV teaches us how not to act. It’s difficult not to glean pearls of wisdom on proper behaviour and etiquette from the plethora of reality shows and situational comedies that feature people who display little or none of it. Aside from inducing sheer perplexity and of course the entertainment value, the sight of grown men and women acting in boorish ways serves as a reminder that you’ll get no love and more importantly no respect for acting like a dumb dumb! Getting into a fist fight at a wedding, flipping the dinner table at a gathering and the more subtle yet insidious acts of gossiping, hitting below the belt with crass and snide comments, navel-gazing and being just plain rude…Ouf! There’s the cliff notes to the entire Real Housewives series. Anyhow, while we’ve been taught to refrain from these unmannerly ways and we tell ourselves we would NEVER behave that way (well, we tell ourselves we would never behave in the latter ways rather than the former. I think only Teresa Guidice believes flipping a table full of yummy food is an appropriate way to deal with confrontation), chances are we already have, hence it doesn’t hurt to stare boorishness in the face as a stern reminder that acting a fool is never a good look. And if reality TV isn’t your cup of tea, you need look no further that your run-of-the-mill comedy or drama to take away valuable lessons on how to be a more considerate co-worker, spouse, parent or friend. The colleague who uses your desk as a chair while you’re away from it or cackles on the phone for hours with utter disregard for others around him or her makes for funny TV moments, but more importantly, is a mirror into our very day-to-day, one where you may recognize yourself and have the opportunity to do some serious introspection.

TV informs our creative endeavours. When we’re running empty on ideas for our next blog post (guilty as charged), essay, novel, play, painting or photography project,  TV can very well become our ticket out of creative purgatory. But not any TV show will do. Only well crafted scripted series and the like can really fuel the fire. It doesn’t matter that the work is televised; good work is good work and as good work, there’s plenty of ideas to take away from it.

TV educates. Yes, hear me out! Of course, for starters, documentaries expose us to subject matters we would otherwise never have known about. Remember the Discovery Channel documentary about Marlie Casseus, a young Haitian girl who over the course of several years had developed an 18-pound tumour on her face? Thanks to this documentary, we learned about polyostotic fibrous displasia, a rare genetic disease, which causes connective tissue to grow in lieu of  bones, leading to deformity. Education leads to awareness, awareness to understanding and understanding to acceptance. If only bystanders had known about Marlie’s condition, this beautiful girl could have been spared public ridicule and the gawking of people who assumed she was nothing but a monster.

Scripted television, like documentaries, can also teach us a thing or two. Did any of you tune in to USA Network’s Political Animals this season? I remember watching the miniseries in its entirety in a single sitting and reaching for the dictionary at least once per episode. In addition to learning customary political parlance, I learned a few new words along the way, improving my vocabulary as a result. Sometimes, TV characters are extremely well-spoken and can teach you a word or two. And perhaps now, with this newly acquired knowledge, I can write my own political series. A bright, promising investigative  journalist unearths corruption within the Conservative government of the Great White North? Hmm…on second thought, maybe not.

Now boys and girls, I certainly don’t want you to believe, as a result of my long-winded argument, that I encourage or promote wasting precious time in front of the box. God knows that reading books, playing strategic skill games like chess and immersing ourselves in novel experiences do much more for preserving our mental acuity than carving a warm, cozy depression on the couch ever will. But should you feel like it, choose what you watch wisely, for you may learn a thing or two and exercise your brain after all. And if escapism is the order of the day, don’t beat yourself up. It doesn’t hurt to live vicariously through the little people inside the tube. If anything, it may just propel you to tell yourself, “I can do that too. I too can have that life,” and get to work accomplishing just that.

And on that note, I leave you to get New Year’s Eve preparations under way. No TV for this gal today. There’s too much to do and little time before my guests arrive. Yikes!

I wish you all a safe and merry New Year’s celebration, and see you in 2013 😉


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