Saturday, September 11, 2010

Why I love television

Some of my favorite television characters. Truth.

Sometimes when I talk to people about television, I feel like they don't really get why I'm so passionate about it. Most people see television as a temporary distraction from real life, a source of information, or (perish the thought!) white noise. Scripted television has been, until recently, seen as a lesser form of entertainment; serious actors go to film, or the stage, screenplays are more complex and sophisticated than teleplays, and cinematic geniuses certainly don't sully their resumes with television projects. In recent years, those opinions have largely disappeared, but a large chunk of the general population still sees television as the awkward younger sibling of film.

As a child I was a Sesame Street fiend, and watched episodes of Eureka's Castle and David the Gnome while I stayed home with mom, before I started school. They whetted my thirst for stories, which was something I wanted however I could come by it. I had always been a consummate player of pretend, acting out stories in fantasy lands like those I heard about in books or saw on television. By night our family would gather around the television to watch The Nanny and reruns of The Cosby Show, educating me in the sitcom. By the time I was in high school, I had probably watched more reruns of classic television shows than anyone I would graduate with. It wasn't until high school, however, that I really fell in love with with it.

My love of television very much stems from my love of stories, and the disappointment I remember feeling when I would finish the too-short novels I devoured not long after deciphering the English language. All of the stories had endings, but the lives of the characters I felt connected to kept going, at least in my imagination. I wanted to know all about these people, their futures, their dreams, their passions, before I even thought about any of those things in my own life. It was the same with movies; what happened to Thumbelina and Prince Cornelius after they lived happily ever after? Did they have adventures? Did they have eight children and grow to be three hundred years old? These are things I wanted to know.

Television allows viewers to learn more about a character than a 120 minute movie can. We get to know a character over the course of roughly twenty-two episodes each year, each running from 21-50 minutes. Character development is done over the course of years, rather than minutes, and the creators are able to keep telling stories. I think that's really what I wanted when I would finish Zilpha Keatley Snyder's novel The Egypt Game, or the animated classic Anastasia. More stories with these characters I'd grown fond of.

When I first started watching Lost, the second semester of my freshman year of college, I was a woman obsessed. I watched multiple episodes a day, and was finally caught up to season four after a few months (which was not so good for my grades, but hey, awesome show, right??). I was enthralled by this group of castaways with the sordid pasts and the mysterious island that they were all somehow connected to. The characters made me want to keep watching as I became more invested, and the writers wove such fantastic stories with these characters that there was no way I could stop.

I never thought very much about how a television show is written until a couple of years ago. It simply never occurred to me that it was an actual career that I could have, taking my love of writing and meshing it with my love of television. There's nothing I would love more than to write amazing television like I've seen on Buffy, 30 Rock, Pushing Daisies, and so many more fantastic shows that I love.

So here's hoping I have a seat at the 70th Annual Emmy Awards. :)


  1. You actually tagged "David the Gnome," the show that so many people think you must have made up. But I remember it well. :)

    You come by your obsession honestly, I fear. At age 5 I was fully ready to ditch "Romper Room" for reruns of "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Petticoat Junction," and the ultimate punishment was to be grounded from reruns of "Daniel Boone" or first-runs of the "ABC Sunday Mystery Movie" where I was introduced to characters like "Columbo," etc.

    Keep writing. Keep studying. Find a character that you love so much that you can't HELP but write about. And if you make it to the 70th Emmy's, I expect a ticket and a big hug on camera. :)

  2. Just letting you know that I've read your blog. :)

    I love television too, despite the fact that I hardly ever have time to watch it anymore, so i think it's safe to say that you're not alone in your obsession.
    Netflix is absolutely brilliant and this year, I've finally managed to catch up on some canceled shows. I finished watching Firefly, Pushing Daisies, and the first season of Dollhouse (now I need to find season 2).
    And with fall premieres coming up soon, I have a feeling that I'll be making good use of my DVR as well.

    The little red Netflix app is starting to become reeeeeeeeeeally tempting right about now, so I guess I had better stop talking about television and get back to my AP himwlework. :/

    Good luck writing. Have fun. And I'll be sure to tune in to the 70th Emmy's.

  3. *homework

    (Did I mention how much I hate the keyboard on the iPod Touch?)