Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Go writers!

House is new tonight!

I haven’t watched much television lately. I catch bits of the Nightly News with my parents (“We can’t miss Brian!”), some Jeopardy!, Jon Stewart and Colbert, and tidbits of VH1/MTV/Best Week Ever/Hannah Montana/South Park/random bits I find on Saturday mornings and at the gym. Obviously, one of the reasons why I haven’t watched much is pretty obvious: I started blogging.

And the writers’ strike.

I support the strikers 100%. I would love to march on the picket lines with them; I’d even wake up early to do so! There are all sorts of implications that will be fascinating to watch as a result of what’s going on, like the fact that pilot season as we know it is basically over. Some people have criticized Jon Stewart for his diatribe on the strike his first day back at work, but I applauded it. I literally clapped my hands and squealed in my pajamas watching it. People said it wasn’t funny, that he should stick to politics. But the writer’s strike is entertainment politics, and he skewers the media, of which he very well knows he’s a part. Of course he’s going to cover it. It’s his show, first of all, and he practically has an obligation to talk about it. He’s in a tough situation, and he tried to get an interim deal, to no avail. Give the guy some credit, some slack. Yeah, working on either his show or Colbert’s would be the shit, but it’s tough: they all make it look easy. Writers are your net, your spotter, your safety valve. They are just as important to television as any other level of production, and many, many shows would not be what they are without writers. Talent and charm and improv can only work so far, and I’m amazed at what I’ve seen so far of the striking Daily Show and Colbert, because it doesn’t feel like it’s not written. Oh, I notice the differences, that’s for sure: there’s no Word, the interviews are longer and sometimes choppy, the timing is sometimes off. But that’s ok, and I embrace it.

The funny thing about television is now that I’m done with college, where I notoriously watched little TV and what I did was either in stolen moments or very regimented, I wondered if I was going to go back to my high school days, finding all new shows to follow obsessively, back to taping and posting and scheduling my life around television. Life–and not just mine–is very different from 2003. I never use my VCR anymore. It’s not that I got a DVD player or a DVR, or that I’ve suddenly become adept at downloading shows on my computer. It’s that I don’t feel that I need to tape things anymore. A few months ago, I missed the first ten minutes of House–my current show of the moment even though I had been upset with the direction it was going–but I didn’t feel a sense of panic, of doom, of disappointment. Whatever, I’ll catch it later on Fox.com, I thought. Exactly. That sums up everything. Even though I had to wait 8 days (goddamn you Fox), I knew I could catch it. And even if I couldn’t, there would be other ways: hulu.com (pray eventually), possibly YouTube, BitTorrent and whatnot. Eventually, there would be DVDs. I wasn’t doomed. While sometimes finding things isn’t always easy, there is a chance, depending upon what you watch, that you can find clips of them online. This works better for current shows; anything even a year or two old (or even a few months old) isn’t so readily available.

When I first got wind of the impending strike, I knew I wanted to fill my time with other things, and by and large, I have, though it wasn’t planned. Now I wonder about filling in television into my current life, a problem I never had before. I was one of those people who essentially scheduled their life around television, though I always bristled at the notion. It mattered to me; so what? It didn’t prevent me from doing other things. I learned this the first week of college when I tried to watch an episode of The O.C: California wasn’t as interesting as the possibilities that lay outside my dorm room. After that, television became a communal experience, rarely watched in school unless surrounded by others. In fact, I purposely watched the Friends finale in a large group, so I could get the full impact. It was to mark an occasion, to make memories. Even when we watched Gilmore Girls or Studio 60 it was more to hang out, to argue and debate and analyze then it was about the shows, especially since in the case of Gilmore Girls it was to complain more often then not. When I came to college, all of a sudden all the shows that I had followed compulsively did not matter anymore. I grew irritated by them all and they fell to the wayside, not missed. I caught bits and pieces of things here and there, but I never vowed to return to my regular schedule. For I did not need television the way I needed it in high school; I had friends now, loads of them, providing me with the comedy and the drama and the heartbreak and the tension that I had eagerly, voraciously consumed just a short time ago.

There are times that I miss television. It is a natural part of modern life now, it is rhythm, it is air and automatic. I still long to get caught up in something so juicy. I know it’ll happen again, just like we know this writer’s strike will eventually end. I wish all the writers loads of luck. I’m with you guys, if only in spirit.


John said...

I remember those days of watching Gilmore Girls as a community. Carl and Ed and I always wondered why Steve kept going, long after the show jumped the shark. Perhaps WE were the ones missing out on the fun.

The same thing happened to me at college, with one exception: the re-launch of Doctor Who during junior year (which I watched mainly via my DVD recorder.) Other than that, my TV sets at college were used exclusively for DVDs and video games, while a lonely coax cable collected dust on the floor next to the wall.

I didn't think I would be such a proponent of DVR, but the thing really is amazing. Programming it is impossibly easy, and the playback looks gorgeous. Between that and On Demand, there is no incentive at all for me to watch things when they are first broadcast. The only thing I watch live anymore is MythBusters, and that's only because it plays while I'm eating dinner. I hope the strikers get a piece of these new outlets, because they really are the present reality of television (no longer the wave of the future!)

Also, it's worth noting that TV show quality has gone steeply downhill since the writer's strike, with only a handful of watchable shows across thousands of digital channels. Let's hope the writers can fix that upon their return.

Emily said...

That happened to me after I went to college with Gilmore Girls. I high school, I thought Rory Gilmore was the coolest girl on the planet. She read books! She was pretty! She could eat enough for an elephant and still be 103 pounds! Boys loved her! When I got to college, I hated her more than any fictional or real person in my entire life.

Because it was entirely unrealistic, and I was sick of living vicariously through a person who wasn't real and who I didn't even believe anymore as a character. Every little thing she did annoyed me, everything the writers did for HER annoyed me. I couldn't take it anymore. I could list all the things I hate about her and that awfully ridiculous banter and her and freakin' Lorelei put me through, but you already know the list.

Also, I miss The Office, and LOST starts tomorrow with only 6 episodes, and I know I'm going to be dying waiting for the rest. If they ever even come.