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December 20, 2014

TV: It's a Love-Hate Kind of Thing

by Stephanie Earp, posted Sep 8th 2009 12:03PM


There are two kinds of people in the world - those who watch TV and those who do not.

I am the sort of person who watches TV. I have all the symptoms. I talk about TV characters as if they are real, and I talk about their lives as if they go on after their show has ended. Just the other day, it hit me that Veronica Mars would be a senior in college now. (That same week was my best friend's birthday - I forgot.)



There are two kinds of people in the world - those who watch TV and those who do not.

Let us look first at those who do not. It is a surprisingly diverse group.

It includes my step-dad, who owns a television (in fact he owns three) but he holds TV in the same regard as rock 'n roll, post-colonialism and fast food: an inevitable and annoying result of progress. Nothing he wants any part of.

It includes my good friend Shawn, who has a flat-screen the size of Rhode Island dominating his living room. From September to April, the toothless stars of the NHL are his constant companions. Then he dumps his satellite company for the summer to pursue related pleasures, such as beer, camping and barbecuing. Sort of like your college boyfriend - you know, the one who went 'tree-planting' every summer and never called.

It also, until recently, included my beloved. When I would mention the treasured shows of my past, he would say "Yeah, I saw an episode or two of that," and then, he would shrug. Shrug! It felt to me like I had just introduced him to my dearest friends and he had declared them 'OK, I guess.' Who, I ask you, could watch only one or two episodes of 'Rome'?

I am of the other sort, the sort of person who watches TV. I have all the symptoms. I talk about TV characters as if they are real, and I talk about their lives as if they go on after their show has ended. Just the other day, it hit me that Veronica Mars would be a senior in college now. (That same week was my best friend's birthday - I forgot.)

I also judge the soundness of my relationship on which TV relationship I relate to most. For a solid season there, I would tell myself that my boyfriend and I were the real-life 'Battlestar Galactica' lovers Anders and Starbuck. When that went south, I decided we're more like the fighting Agathons. But as long as I still think we're like the happiest couple on a show, I know we are happy.

Even though I usually watch shows on my own schedule these days, I still get a little tingle of excitement when I realize it's Thursday. That whole Must-See TV night has been dead for almost a decade, and I still wake up on Thursday mornings with a feeling of excitement. It's a nasty trick - sort of like how September makes you think of back-to-school when the truth is you've been a working stiff for ages by now.

If you watch TV, its hard not to love TV. We've been awfully lucky over the last eight years or so. The rise of HBO, the wide spectrum of specialty channels, the invention of reality TV (this is a mixed blessing, to be sure) and of course PVR have led to a television golden age. There is an astonishing array of genuine quality programming out there.

There's also a fair amount of garbage. But has the garbage ever been more delicious? 'The Hills', 'America's Next Top Model', and 'Big Brother' are just a few of the shows I hate to love. And even with all the bad reviews, look at them go. Will they ever die? How many seasons will it take to finally rid us of our desire to watch Tyra Banks take everything she does too far?

That's the thing about people who watch TV - we have mixed emotions about our chosen mistress. We're a large group with considerable power, but it's a power we can't control. We keep the bad shows alive just the way we couldn't keep 'Arrested Development' from being cancelled. It's so obvious what we watch because - CanCon requirements aside - that's what's on the air.

So who are we, we who watch TV? We are the people who made Heidi and Spencer into celebrities, and we are the people who ended Jason Bateman's TV comeback. We made Boston Rob, and we ignored 'Freaks and Geeks'. If the projections are right, we are about to get really into a trumped-up musical version of 'Bring It On.' I fear it has already been brought.

Oh, and we can be cruel. Is there anything more vicious than an angry, disappointed TV fan? I remember resisting the urge to spit on the producers of 'Lost' at a junket years ago when they told me they weren't writing for fans who hit pause and rewind. You know, fans like me. I felt like I'd been dumped.

Because that's another thing about people who watch TV - we're lovers first, before we're haters. Get online and blast Serena Van Der Woodsen's outfits all you like, but you better know exactly what episode and scene you're dissing.

People who don't watch TV probably aren't going to come here, so let's waste no more time in thinking about their strange, empty lives. Welcome to InsideTV, TV watchers.

You are my kind of people.

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