Should have said: this was my first “Talkin’ TV” column (and no, I didn’t make that tag line up) in the Gary Post-Tribune. Debuted on a Sunday in January.
The first thing you should know about me is this: I love television.
I have loved television since I sat on the floor watching The Dick Van Dyke show while my mother ironed my father’s handkerchiefs.
The second thing you should know about me is this: I’m not a very good television snob. I really try to love shows like Nova, but the truth is, I love a good story more than I love nonfiction, and I love a good character more than I love a good story. But what I like better than a good story and a good character is good writing.
That’s why I love to watch shows like The West Wing and Boston Legal; they combine good stories with memorable and unpredictable (yet unbelievably believable) characters, and writing that, frankly, sometimes knocks my slippers off.
The next thing you need to know about me is I’ll watch just about anything once. From Dirty Jobs to The Apprentice, from 90210 to Studio 60, from Survivor to American Idol. From Ghost Whisperer to Medium. I’ve even watched bits of SuperNanny and WifeSwap. That’s how committed to television I am.
Okay, there is one exception: I would not watch OJ Simpson detail how he “would have” done “it” if, in fact, he had done it. And I won’t watch Fox News. Ever.
I avoid South Park. And I won’t watch shows where women compete with each other for a “prize” which is a man (who probably isn’t much of a prize).
Hmmm, I guess I’m not nearly as open-minded as I thought.
And, still, with all those awful and marginal shows, I love TV.
I love TV like those women love those men they are competing for—not exactly for what it is, but for what it could be.
I love television for its potential.
It is the medium that shamed the rest of America into action when it depicted the water cannons and the beatings and the other atrocities humans were doing to other humans because of their fear of a changing world–a world where races live side by side.
It is what brought that famous first step on the moon to schoolchildren and dared them to dream not of what is, but what could be.
Television is the medium that brought home with immediacy the war in Viet Nam.
It is what brought us all to our knees when we watched those towers fall.
And it is the medium that could have changed the lives of millions of people in Louisiana and Mississippi had it only done days earlier what it eventually did: show the truth about how ill-prepared and wrong-headed our government was and the toll it took on the lives of all sorts of populations (poor, ill, elderly, black, and God forbid you are—or were—a member of all four of those populations).
And during all these times, it also provided fictional opportunities for us all to process our grief and to, hopefully, grow in understanding. These dramas, sit-coms, and mini-series offered one way to give context to the world and national events that rocked our world.
Through laughter and tears and just plain good writing, it gave—and sometimes still gives—us a chance to learn from each other, for each other.
And it is the mere whiff of that possibility for understanding that makes me love it as I do, and keeps me tuned in.