October 31st, 2008 08:14 EST
Media Is The Masses: Improving standards and practices
"Mass communications is our language today between one another, and we can`t say, `Well, let`s not talk about anything serious on television.` That is a criminal statement and a criminal intention. In my opinion, the audience is way ahead of our government leaders. I think the government leaders should catch up with our audience, and then we`d have 21st century dreams right now." --Gene Roddenberry; Good Morning America interview 11/21/86
That books not only ARE being written about TV shows, but CAN be written, indicates that the medium of television has evolved sufficient sophistication to warrant it. The complex literary and aesthetic virtues traditionally associated with novels have manifested in TV: large scale and long range narratives, character and plot developments, and serious themes/subjects.
Since television has become more literary and thoughtful, it has simultaneously become more deserving of literary criticism and thoughtful, scholarly analysis.
Which isn`t to say that the medium as a whole has been so elevated-- most content in the TV landscape is still crap, but the medium has grown capable of accommodating intelligent material.
As with any story telling medium, television has a history of progression; no medium has ever emerged fully formed; all media develop gradually.
To judge TV critically in its early stages would be like assuming what kind of adult someone would be when they are a child.
The amount and degree of quality has greatly increased to where writers can better and more thoroughly express themselves, rather than being confined to simplistic and cliched format.
Moving from broadcasting to narrowcasting has enabled TV to provide more literate content by targeting niche audiences instead of trying to appeal to generic demographics.
All shows don`t need to attract a mainstream audience, so an increasing number of shows can be designed for a more educated, intelligent, and discriminating audience.
Proliferation of recording devices, online video, cable channels and syndication has liberated television from limitations on programming complexity, because it became possible to partake of that programming in concentrated doses, instead of parceling episodes out over a broadcast season. An audience would never have to risk missing episodes or forget details between episodes, because the episodes could be watched in close succession or re-watched as necessary or desired. Plus, it could be done at the audience`s convenience, as opposed to a network determined schedule. Therefore, stories need not be simplified, self-contained or easily-consumable for the sake of keeping audience attention.
TV writers are not only more able to preserve the artistic integrity of their stories, but are also more responsible for that integrity. To an extent currently not possible for screen writers on movies.
Producers may now introduce greater elements of complexity into their shows, like story arcs and character growth, without concern of losing audience for that reason. Shows may be not only written with a sophistication of books, but available to read and re-read like books.
TV has become the new long form novel, while the novel is being replaced by short stories.
Deep Space Nine, Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5, Firefly, and Studio 60 demonstrate the epic mythology, intelligence and social relevance this medium can achieve when put in the hands of skilled artisans, not remedialized for lowest common denominator commercialism.
TV is now able to incorporate what has always made good narratives in any medium-- complex story lines, interesting and realistic characters, serious and philosophical issues, and insights into the human condition.