Although I have not paid for cable in years, and though I couldn’t tell you what the top shows have been for the past ten years, and even though I have frequently proclaimed “Kill Your Television” as a panacea to our collective North American spiritual crisis (highest level of depression in the world) I felt I had to comment on an article that appeared at Gawker.com titled “The End of Television As We Know It”today that said:
“For decades now, the networks and production studios have held a creative stranglehold over the industry. If you were a writer with a brilliant idea for a new show, you had to go through “the system” if you held any hope for your idea to see the light of day and come to fruition as an actual television show. “The system” meaning everything so frustrating and wrong and cliched with modern day Hollywood—-An endless clusterfuck of pitch meetings to tone-deaf underlings, countless script re-writes birthed from asinine notes from dunderhead executives (“I see on page 16 you have Sally eating a peanut…shouldn’t she be eating a cashew instead?!”) who’d never written a thing in their lives but love handing out business cards to aspiring starlets with the word “Producer” under their names, a dizzying array of focus groups and trend research studies so the higher-ups can get their fingers on the “pulse” of the modern viewer and force the creator to change accordingly, and everybody and their wife and cousin has got a fucking opinion to the point where the whole thing gets utterly mutilated. Someone could have the most brilliant idea and these people will more often than not find new and innovative ways to destroy it, all in the hopes of making it more appealing to Harriet and Clarence McAverage in Des Moines, Iowa.”
Not really. I mean, it would be nice to think the internet, the platform that made you “famous,” Gawker, was all that, but not yet. Last year 99% of television was still watched on a “TV.” I was surprised myself by that number, but guess what – Hulu+YouTube+Piratebay+Demonoid and all of it still equals less than 1% of the viewing audience.
People have been crying “Kill Your Television” since it began. And every year we declare its death, but it won’t go away. Next year when all those new xmas-gift HDTVs start broadcasting 3D content, Lost in 3D, UFC in 3D and the rest of it (sure YouTube 3D is coming soon too) the internet will still be a relative drop in the bucket. Perhaps it is for the same reason radio won’t die; sometimes people don’t WANT to think, they don’t want to make their own choices. Sometimes they just want to sit back and have their entertainment programmed for them by a curator, by a collective group of people who are experts in storytelling, lighting, editing, acting, post-production etc.
“User-created content” may find ways of reaching large audiences, it may even prove to be innovative and of high standard, but what makes television relevant is that it concentrates an audience and its collective experience. The internet lets anyone watch anything anytime – but they do not share in the moment and TV, as the modern campfire creates a certain sense of social unity. You can watch the Superbowl a week later on Hulu, but that kind of misses the point doesn’t it? The collective excitement is gone, the dueling sides, the excitement of participation is lacking in this regard.
Sure this idea of choose-your-own-adventure is neat, but it is still time-intensive and requires research and thus actual work. TV is a passive sport and so long as we work and get tired and just want to chill on the couch and be entertained, TV will be around.