Long considered the boob tube, television is becoming the “It girl” of mass media…for being brainy!
August 16, 2010
Great article in the September issue of Details magazine, by Simon Dumenco, on the evermore arty and erudite medium of television. That’s right, TV. Seems the boob tube has come of age and is no longer the “vast wasteland” as so many smarty-pants used to call it. No doubt there are plenty of shallow programs around the dial –the plethora of reality TV shows testifies to that. However, we elitist snobs now have an array of high-brow choices unlike the medium has ever seen: Mad Men, True Blood, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, Glee, and many others coming and going.
When I was a tyke we basically got frivolous crap –though sometimes highly entertaining- like The Beverly Hillbillies and Love American Style. Basically, the only TV smart people owned up to watching were 60 minutes, PBS and the Olympics. But with the advent of cable, Internet platforms and DVDs the sheer volume of options has bred higher and higher quality shows, shows that people want to own and talk about. We are as likely to display a boxed set of Mad Men on the book shelf as, well, books.
Dumenco pokes fun at our newfound elitism, writing that so-called “must see TV” has become “home-workey.” Clearly appointment television has entered the highest tiers of society. We like to brag about being up-to-date on the greatest shows, and not just around the water cooler but via Twitter and Facebook. We are ever so slightly dismissive of those who aren’t. Ironically, it reminds me of those kids in college who pooh-poohed TV altogether, claiming it was junk food. Indeed, I remember feeling cool admitting I didn’t watch TV at all. Just football and the news, I used to say. Not anymore.
I adore Mad Men and True Blood. I am frothing at the mouth to catch AMC’s latest offering, The Walking Dead. And I still think the Simpson’s provides some of the finest social satire available.
In addition to regular folk developing meaningful, long-term relationships with TV, so are many big time creators of content. Dumenco points out Martin Scorsese’s upcoming Boardwalk Empire as a prime example. It is no longer considered “slumming” for a famous feature director to take on the medium. Quite the contrary.
Perhaps the most revelatory aspect of all this is TVs rekindled adoration by advertisers. While Mad Men may only garner a million or two viewers they are considered among the most important viewers in the universe. For BMW and other like-minded advertisers going on such programming is like shooting fish in a barrel. A long way from the barrel of monkeys TV viewers used to represent.
When there were only a few channels, networks dumbed everything down to the lowest common denominator. Quality shows like All in the Family and Mash were major exceptions. Now smart programming doesn’t just survive; it thrives.
Unlike Dumenco, who sarcastically wraps up his piece suggesting its time to “stop telling everybody just how much (we’re) gorging on TV,” I think this phenomenon is a remarkably good thing. And not just for the viewing public but for all of us in the advertising business as well.