The L Word, Project Runway, Weeds, Six Feet Under, Big Love: These shows have two things in common. First they are full of totally f*cked-up and compelling characters. Second, they are all on cable. Why is this? Heather Havrilesky at Salon thinks it is because the networks are all trying to reach out to so many people and not alienate anyone that they end up boring us all. More attention is paid to the expensive set and trite camera tricks than to character development, leaving us all indifferent to the outcome of the story. From her article:
Compared to older shows, today’s shows are more like magazine photo shoots than dramatic narratives. They need more digressions, more springtime distractions, more long gazes into a growling engine, more quiet moments on the porch listening to a soprano hit a high note across the street. Maybe the problem is that so much TV is created by clean, pretty, efficient professionals who know how to hit all the right marks before the first-act break — highly paid, talented people who know how to crack jokes and write rapid, witty lines, but who don’t take the time to read or think and who basically have nothing worthwhile to say or express. As long as everyone’s hair looks pretty and that shiny, happy yuppie feeling is telegraphed, they’re satisfied.
As a point of contrast Heather discusses the Oxygen network show Campus Ladies, which I haven’t seen but I think sounds awesome. It’s about two grown women (pictured above) who go back to college and do crazy things like enter banana-eating contests and marry freshman boys in a fit of passion.
Of course the reason they are allowed to be so whacky is because it is fake reality television. Reality TV, no matter how many models are planted in the cast, always succeeds in revealing the petty, mean underbelly of humanity (e.g., America’s Next Top Model, The Amazing Race), and that is why they are the only thing worth watching on network television. For your fictitious fix, turn on Showtime.