I don’t miss TV but that doesn’t mean the show’s over. (Part II)

March 27, 2009

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Whether TV is dying, I suppose, is debatable. But it certainly is changing, as are all mass media. Which got me to thinking…

I already said I don’t miss TV but that doesn’t mean I’ve rid it from my life. Given I have ten of them in my house, I can hardly be called an abolitionist.

We still make TV commercials at our agency. I still love the craft of making them. For that matter, I came very close to selling my first novel, The Last Generation to Touchstone Television for a possible series. I helped all I could on my good friend’s TV show “Trust Me.” TV is part of my life as it is part of everyone’s life.

So, let me rephrase the point: I don’t miss TV as a primary part of my life. Having the Bears game on in the background while I read the paper. Watching Sportscenter while I jog on the treadmill. Waking up to Sponge Bob with my children. Yes to all of that. Yes to TV.

The key here is that TV is not a primary part of these vignettes. It has moved out of the living room and into the background. It has become a secondary or even more distant player in my life.

Other mass media have evolved (devolved?) similarly. Radio started out as a communication tool and quickly grew to be an important part of household entertainment. TV came along and took its place in the family room. Radio quickly moved into the automobile, where it still plays a meaningful role today. I’m guessing, before long, it will end up where it began: as a communication tool.

And what about newspapers and magazines? Their imminent demise is even more speculated than television. Clearly the Internet is forcing their hand. But they will not fold. Mass media will merely recede as it evolves, occupying peripheral space as opposed to front and center.

In other words, it doesn’t go away but it becomes less than it was. For advertisers, that means no more paying out the nose for commercials (production and media). The rise of so-called “virals” has already cheapened the form. Agencies will have to adjust accordingly. The smart ones already are.

8 Responses to “I don’t miss TV but that doesn’t mean the show’s over. (Part II)”

  1. jim schmidt said

    the late great david foster wallace threw away his tv after he realized that it never really gave him any joy. much of mass media is mere clutter that keeps us from the important things in life–family, friends, the struggle to become become better people.

  2. SRP said

    Jim-
    You mention DFW all the time.
    Could you please give readers (and me) the definitive text from the author -or a great way to begin reading him?
    Thanks!

  3. dutch lumpke said

    A great way to start is with some of his essays. Try “Consider the Lobster”.

  4. I think DFW’s essays are better than his novels, though I really enjoyed the novels Infinite Jest and Girl With Curious Hair.

    “Brief Interviews Wiht Hideous Men” is a good short story collection, and one of them has pretty profoundly affected my outlook on life.

    “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” is his first collection of essays, and is exceptional. Haven’t read “lobster.”

  5. Andy Webb said

    With big-screen TVs providing a theater experience that’s hard to match in any other medium, I can’t see TV fading too far into the periphery.

    Maybe it will shift to more of a subscription or on-demand model with zero or limited advertising…

  6. jim schmidt said

    the others have already chimed in with great suggestions. “a supposedly fun thing i’ll never do again” is brilliant. as is “consider the lobster.” his 1000 page novel “inifinite jest” tackles, among many other things, the subject of mass communications–in foster’s world years are actually sponsored by companies–ie, the year of the depend adult undergarment, etc. be warned–he hates things such as advertising and marketing–sees them as shallow pursuits by people who are not really trying very hard to do something worthwhile with their lives. but his writing is electric.

  7. SRP said

    Thanks all-
    I must say I hadn’t read DFW but I will now put him in my next Amazon basket.
    FYI: I see there is finally a great bio on Cheever, which will also make it on the next order.
    anyone for Happy Soul Industry? I hear it’s great, despite the author being a schmo.

  8. In 2000, DFW traveled with McCain’s campiagn to explore whether he really was a “Maverick” or if that was just window dressing on a typical Republican. The article he wrote was supposed to be in Rolling Stone, but it was too long, so it was published in book form.

    I haven’t read it, but it sounds pretty great.

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