Long considered the boob tube, television is becoming the “It girl” of mass media…for being brainy!

August 16, 2010


TV. New and Improved!

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.

5 Responses to “Long considered the boob tube, television is becoming the “It girl” of mass media…for being brainy!”

  1. jim schmidt said

    while there are some really interesting things on tv these days, by and large it’s still a huge, coma-inducing waste of time. the notion that we exist in this big, beautiful world and spend countless hours staring at glowing boxes in the comfort of our homes is beyond sad. as someone far smarter them myself once said, the only purpose of entertainment is to separate you from your money. and that’s all that box in your living room is there to do.

    • SRP said

      Too harsh, Jim-
      Setting aside a few hours a week to become immersed in a great story or to laugh your ass off is a perfectly wonderful use of time.

  2. Anne said

    Indeed– a perfectly wonderful use of time.

  3. jim schmidt said

    most folks aren’t as discerning as you guys and spend endless hours in the glow of satan’s little fun box. it really has become electronic crack for many, many people. with lots of the really addicted paying more for the purer stuff (hbo/cable).

  4. MadMenGirl said

    Hey there!

    I have entered a contest to win a walk-on role on that retro-licious TV show, “Mad Men”… but I need your vote to win!

    If you don’t mind taking a couple of seconds to vote for me, click the link – it will take you right to my picture.

    Thanks a bunch!

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