Culture Shock: Confessions of a TV Junkie

By Kristian Smock | Feb - April 2006

I’ve been obsessed with pop culture for as long as I can remember. From an early age I was drawn to the fantasy worlds contained within books, films, music, art, and of course, television.

My tastes run the entire gambit in regard to genre and subject matter. I am truly a pop junkie, and my addiction has only intensified over the years. Like most kids, television was one of my dearest friends.

TV was always there for me. Her comforting cathode rays sent me off to school, filling my head with mindless cartoons as I ate sugary sweet cereals masquerading as breakfast. She was always waiting for me to get home, welcoming my arrival with promises of “Scooby Doo” mysteries and cybertronic “Transformer” battles.

If it was on during the ‘80s there was a good chance I watched it. Her canned laughter kept me company during dinner, and at night she tucked me into bed lulling me to sleep. Due to my young developing mind I had no taste whatsoever when it came to programming. I watched everything from idiotic sitcoms to the occasional soap opera with my mother.

It didn’t matter what was on. If it came from the blue glow of the set I was transfixed like a mindless zombie. We had a great relationship, and television always delivered the goods whether it was action, drama, comedy, horror, or tits and ass.

In my late teens a strange thing happened. I had an epiphany that television was a complete waste of my time. In this moment of clarity I realized how awful my beloved was, and I turned my back on her.

The laugh tracks that once warmed my heart were now an insult to my intelligence. I became acutely aware of all the lame conventions and formulas recycled from network to network, and I severed our relationship because no further magic could be gained from our union.

Illustration by Jessie Day

I became even more infatuated with film, and except for the occasional “X-Files” or “Simpsons” episode, I steered clear of my old two-dimensional lover and all the clichés she had to offer.

I pitied people like my parents that made it a point to be home to watch crap like, “L.A. Law” or “Major Dad” when they could be doing something so much better with their time.

Like a reformed dope fiend, I preached the evils of television to those close to me. No one listened of course, but I held on to my elitist perspective, and I continued preaching the word for nearly a decade.

Now, just when I thought I was done with TV for good; we have rekindled our old passions. To my amazement, in the past few years television has actually become really great. There’s more quality programming than ever before, and I can hardly keep up.

Many contemporary shows are cinematic and well written, which was unheard of ten years ago. Television is much edgier, and many talented writers, producers, directors, and actors are totally reinventing the medium.

The networks still suck for the most part, but cable channels are breathing new life into what was stale and tiresome. I have more favorite shows than ever before, and although I can feel my brain cells bursting, I don’t mind because I’m so damned entertained.

I really can’t believe I’m writing this, but there are actually a few good sitcoms nowadays. Shows like “Arrested Development,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and “The Office” are essentially sitcoms shot on location –void of the insulting, pandering, laugh tracks.

“Six Feet Under,” “The Sopranos,” “Carnivale,” “Nip/Tuck,” “24,” and “The Shield” are much better than most feature films coming out of Hollywood. Right now is truly the greatest moment in television history.

Don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty of schlock polluting the airwaves, but at least we have a little quality to help even out all the garbage. I still despise laugh tracks, and with the exception of “Nip/Tuck” and “The Shield,” I don’t watch any shows involving lawyers, doctors, or cops.

TV and I are making up for lost time. Just when I thought it was over between us; she wooed my heart once more. Our love affair is superficial and passing, but we have a lot of fun during the moments spent together in my darkened room.

We love each other in a completely self-serving way, but at least we both get something out of it. During vigorous bouts of viewing I can escape my mundane existence between commercial breaks, and she gets to rake in cash with endorsements and advertisements.

She’s a filthy money-grubbing whore, but she never pretends to be anything else, and I love her for that.

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