I love television. I love it as a source of entertainment and as an outlet for analysis. Besides books, there is nothing I love to analyze more than television shows.
Television gets a bad reputation as being “mindless entertainment,” but I believe that reputation is not totally fair. Like all forms of media, you have to choose to see the positive examples and focus on those instead of the negative ones. Besides, it’s not just television that can be trashy. There are plenty of distasteful, mindless, and just plain awful films and books as well.
For every terrible television show (Sixteen and Pregnant, Bad Girls Club, every dating show ever aired on VH1, etc.) there are great television shows (The Wire, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, etc.). And there are fewer things more enjoyable in the life of a media studies geek than following a great television show through to its conclusion.
Television as a medium is like literature in a lot of ways. Each episode is like a chapter of a book, and each season is like a book in a series. If done correctly, television shows allow for the possibility of deep analysis and thoughtful discussion because of the depth with which stories can be told in this medium. Unlike films, which last two hours (or sometimes more – especially if you’re Peter Jackson or James Cameron), television shows can last for years. This allows for a kind of storytelling which, when done correctly, has the ability to present deeper characters and richer plots with more emotional weight than even a novel can present.
The emotional connection between the audience of a television show and the show itself is often stronger than the connection between other forms of media and their audiences. Viewers let television characters into their homes for an hour (or half-hour) every week for around 22-23 weeks per year (depending on the number of episodes in a season). There’s a sense of familiarity that develops in watching the interactions of characters for season after season of a television show, and that familiarity lends itself to a more emotionally engaging media experience than a standalone book or film. Put in the hands of capable writers and actors, these characters grow and develop over the course of a television show’s run, and viewers are able to watch that growth and personally connect with it.
More than any other medium, television produces impassioned discussions at family gatherings, in offices, and by high school lockers. Good television (and sometimes even bad television) demands to be discussed, to be shared, to be analyzed. Good television makes us think, makes us laugh, makes us cry, and makes us feel.
And it often moves us to do those things together.
In this age of social media, there’s a unique sense of community that comes with watching a television show as it’s airing, knowing that millions of others around the country are doing the same thing. After (or even during) a particular episode of a television show, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and numerous other social websites become gathering places for fans to share their reactions as they’re experiencing them. Those collective reactions are something you can’t really get with a book and can only get in small doses with a movie.
This time of year is the best time to be a fan of great television. There’s something about a strong season finale that can make a show stick with you forever. Season finales are where the most memorable shows create or build upon their legacies, where television becomes even more culturally relevant than it usually is. Season finales are where we are reminded of how affecting, engaging, and brilliant a medium television can be.
This is the time of year when couples who’ve danced around each other for years finally come together (Ross and Rachel on Friends), beloved characters die (Charlie on Lost), and unforeseen plot twists blow our minds (Sydney going missing for two lost years on Alias).
Season finales bring out the best of the best in terms of television. They are the episodes we talk about all summer, the episodes that draw new viewers to great shows, the episodes that make us reach for our tissues more times than we’d care to admit. Season finales are where Emmys are won, stars are made, and indelible television moments are created.
Here at Nerdy Girl Notes, I’ll be recapping five season finales over the next few weeks. For those keeping track at home, here’s the list:
Castle: Monday, May 7 at 10 p.m. on ABC
New Girl: Tuesday, May 8 at 9 p.m. on FOX
Parks and Recreation: Thursday, May 10 at 9:30 p.m. on NBC
Once Upon a Time: Sunday, May 13 at 8 p.m. on ABC
Glee: Tuesday, May 22 at 9 p.m. on FOX
Which season finales are you waiting with bated breath to watch? I’m always up for television recommendations, so let me know if there’s a show you think I should be watching!