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Television Enhances Your Performance - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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July 15th, 2006


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12:21 pm - Television Enhances Your Performance
Amanda Cuda is my favorite person today.
No, what gets my goat are people who are superior about not watching television. You know the people I'm talking about. These are people who, when they utter the words "I don't watch television" actually mean "I am too good to watch television."

These are people who feel that television is a lesser form of culture, on a par with bear-baiting and mud wrestling.

These are people who feel that cultural enrichment can only be offered through art forms such as books, films or the theater.

And to these people I offer these words: get over yourself. You are not better than I am because you don't watch television.

In fact, by eliminating an entire source of information and entertainment from your life, I argue that you are actually less enlightened than me and my tube-viewing brethren.


The piece is fantastic, and I can't say it much better than she has. For God's sake, she even threw in a bear-baiting reference. It's been a while since I've been to a good bear-baiting.

Hell, I'm going to put the entire piece behind a cut for easy access.

The Connecticut Post Online
"Avoiding TV nothing to be proud of"
Amanda Cuda

In the few months that I've been writing this column, there's one phrase that I've heard from quite a few people. It's a phrase that, every time I hear it, has the same effect on me as fingernails on a chalkboard.

That phrase? "I don't watch television."

Yeesh. Just writing the sentence makes me cringe.

Now it doesn't bother me that there are people who don't watch television. There are many perfectly good reasons for not watching television.

I have a friend who works ridiculous hours at a law firm and is usually exhausted when she gets home. She doesn't own a television set because she doesn't really have time to watch it, thus rendering it a needless expense.

My friend is excused for her TV-free existence, as are those who just can't afford a set or cable.

In fact, let me amend my earlier statement: it's not those who abstain from television who annoy me.

No, what gets my goat are people who are superior about not watching television. You know the people I'm talking about. These are people who, when they utter the words "I don't watch television" actually mean "I am too good to watch television."

These are people who feel that television is a lesser form of culture, on a par with bear-baiting and mud wrestling.

These are people who feel that cultural enrichment can only be offered through art forms such as books, films or the theater.

And to these people I offer these words: get over yourself. You are not better than I am because you don't watch television.

In fact, by eliminating an entire source of information and entertainment from your life, I argue that you are actually less enlightened than me and my tube-viewing brethren.

Think about it. You never hear people bragging about how they don't read books.

If someone mentions that they don't read, it's often with an aura of shame. People who don't read feel they must make some excuse for this behavior to avoid appearing ignorant or uncultured.

There's also a little stigma attached to never having seen live theater or missing the latest critically acclaimed film.

So, why do people think omitting TV from your life makes you smarter or more cultured?

Maybe it's because these people equate television with shows like "Fear Factor" or "Wife Swap" or all those VH1 shows in which low-level celebrities jaw about how they "love" different decades.

But that's like equating all musical theater with "Cats" or comparing all movies to "Showgirls." These shows represent just a sliver of what is available. Television isn't just the idiot box anymore. Ask anyone who has tried to follow the multiple storylines on "Lost" if he or she thinks it's a show for dummies. Watch any episode of "Veronica Mars" or "The Shield" and try telling me that those characters aren't at least as complicated and well drawn as those in any novel, play or film.

Yes, television has its flaws. A lot of crummy shows have floated over the screen in recent years (you know who you are, "Yes, Dear"). A lot of good shows disappear. And yes, it is getting harder and harder to tell the difference between news and entertainment. But does turning off the tube mean you're a more highly evolved person?

Heck no.

It means that you have a fairly narrow-minded view not only of television, but of those who enjoy it.

Well, let me leave you with this. I read feverishly and collect books like they're about to be banned. I own more than one foreign film on DVD. I go to roughly one Broadway play a year and would go to more if I could afford it.

I also love "King of the Hill," "My Name is Earl," "Veronica Mars" and "The Shield." In my eyes, that last statement doesn't negate the previous ones — it complements them.

But, then again, what do I know?

After all, I watch television.

Current Mood: pleasedpleased
Current Music: Muse - Knights of Cydonia

(46 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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From:squaringkarma
Date:July 15th, 2006 07:25 pm (UTC)
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"Television Enhances Your Performance" ...In bed?
From:mangopickle
Date:July 15th, 2006 07:48 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for that link. God, if I had a dime each time some self-righteous hipster told me they don't watch television, I'd be richer than Donald Trump.

Fuck that. I'll take my !Huff, VM, Wonderfalls, Weeds, 6FU, Gilmore Girls and reality shows with a side of no bullshit, please. You know what few people consider? That reading -- what is now so virtuous -- was tantamount to television in the 14,15,1600s. Hell, as a writer, I pick up more influences from TV shows than I do from books. Actresses like Elizabeth Perkins, Jessica Walter and Kelly Bishop make it a joy to try to put spins on their versions of characters.

Here's to all the kids who DO watch TV. But not CBS. If you're watching CBS, I can't be seen with you in public.

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From:spectralbovine
Date:July 15th, 2006 08:07 pm (UTC)
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I'll take my !Huff, VM, Wonderfalls, Weeds, 6FU, Gilmore Girls and reality shows with a side of no bullshit, please.
I still have some reality show snobbery, though. I can't see them as being on the same level as the other shows you mentioned. Even though I know that their "reality" is just as finely crafted as any television drama.

You know what few people consider? That reading -- what is now so virtuous -- was tantamount to television in the 14,15,1600s.
Hell yeah. I still love the idea of people waiting hungrily at the docks for the next installment of Dickens's latest book to arrive. I'm not sure that it was "tantamount" to television, per se. I like to think of it as people actually enjoying reading back in the day. Because they had nothing else to do besides get sick and die.

If you're watching CBS, I can't be seen with you in public.
CBS did show four VM episodes last summer.
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From:miss_katelynne
Date:July 15th, 2006 07:53 pm (UTC)
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AMEN and HALLELUJAH!! I know some people like that. They make my backhand itch.
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From:janeanger
Date:July 15th, 2006 08:15 pm (UTC)
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I don't watch TV even though I have one available to me now. I don't like it. For every good show, I feel that there are 20-30 that suck your brains out your ears -- the ratio isn't good enough for me. I would rather sit outside in a park & do nothing than sit inside & watch TV. That said, I don't really care what other people do with their time, though I do think it depends what you are watching on TV more than if you watch it at all.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:July 15th, 2006 08:18 pm (UTC)
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Oh, of course. I watch a lot of TV, and a lot of it is just fluff. I could just limit myself to the shows I follow regularly and be done with it. It's the dismissing of the entire medium as an art form that pisses me off.
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From:capnnick
Date:July 15th, 2006 08:22 pm (UTC)
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My family has cable now, but there are so many channels I have no idea where to look. Anything I should try getting hooked on?
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From:spectralbovine
Date:July 15th, 2006 08:32 pm (UTC)
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I don't know, Nick.

HOW ABOUT FUCKING VERONICA MARS?!

It's like you don't even know me.

Actually, it's the summer right now, and they're halfway through S2 in reruns, so now is not a good time to start. Rent the DVDs.

USA has some pretty good programming in the summer. I've heard good things about Eureka, which premieres Tuesday night.
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From:allthelivesofme
Date:July 15th, 2006 08:37 pm (UTC)
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You never hear people bragging about how they don't read books.

Actually, I have heard this. *sniffle*

Very nice essay though. :-) I didn't used to watch television-- I'm way too forgetful to have a list of shows to watch every week (I make an exception for LOST). Usually I just figure out what shows look interesting and then get them on DVD.

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From:spectralbovine
Date:July 15th, 2006 08:47 pm (UTC)
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Actually, I have heard this. *sniffle*
Oh my God. Seriously? Who ARE these people?
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From:adelynne
Date:July 15th, 2006 09:58 pm (UTC)
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That is both witty and insightful.

What actually ticks me off are the people who go "I don't listen to radio other than NPR." Not because I think NPR is somehow lesser (and mind, I listen to NPR occasionally), but because in that statement is the same implication as "I don't watch television."

That said, I spent several happy years of my life (roughly coinciding with the end of high school and my undergraduate career) only watching TV when my friends had a DVD on. I couldn't find anything worth my time to follow (and "Earth: Final Conflict" poisoned my love Saturday afternoon TV), and I didn't have a DVR/TiVo to make it possible to catch the shows I was interested in when they were convenient for me.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:July 15th, 2006 10:02 pm (UTC)
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Oh, yeah, I mean, I love the radio. There are scores of artists and songs I have discovered by listening to the radio that I would not have heard otherwise. So shut up, everyone.

I am positive someone is going to come in here and point out my hypocrisy because I have to have the same attitude toward some other medium. I guess one could point to the old "I listen to everything but rap or country" argument, although I do listen to artists/songs with rap and country influences.
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From:athenacqd
Date:July 15th, 2006 09:58 pm (UTC)
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Oh man, so much word. I despise (and often list as my #1 pet peeve) people who act superior about "not owning and/or watching tv." I just want to smack them. Really hard.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:July 15th, 2006 10:03 pm (UTC)
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I do not believe we will find such people at Comic-Con, thankfully.
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From:upanashad
Date:July 15th, 2006 10:40 pm (UTC)
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I think a lot of people feel shame about watching tv, if they don't outright abstain. Just about everyone I know in RL will admit to watching tv with this sort of hang-dogged look, like they know they shouldn't and they feel guilty, but they can't help themselves and have given in to the MAN. So I used to feel embarrased about my tv love, and I would sort of not talk about tv shows with anyone (and if I did my friends would make fun of me, because it was okay to watch tv, but you had to do it with this sort of disdain like it was really beneath you). And then I found TWoP, and I had no idea other people loved tv and openly obsessed about it before that. And now I talk about tv shows with total enthusiasm, and I find once I start going on about how much I love tv, other people stop looking ashamed about it, and start chatting about the shows they like, and totally enjoy themselves. I am a couch potato crusader.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:July 15th, 2006 10:52 pm (UTC)
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You should get a Couch Potato Crusader icon.
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From:zimshan
Date:July 16th, 2006 05:03 am (UTC)
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It really is sad how much the television format is looked down on in society. You watch tv and automatically you are "wasting your time". My arguement that TV can tell a story just as intelligently as films and novels is always met with a snicker.

But, at the same time, I do understand where that mentality comes from. A majority of America sits down to watch television and turns off their brains, thereby christening it 'the idiot box'. Just look at the shows that get those high ratings. I'll fully admit it. I am a TV snob just like I am a bit of a film snob and a music snob. Heh. But really, it does depend on what you watch. There's still alot of crap on television. A huge majority of it is crap. But gems do exist, and continuely prove tv CAN be better. And the fact that the number of gems are expanding, makes the future of the tv format look that much brighter.

I've always been of the opinion that with the amount of time most people spend watch tv, if you made tv smarter, you'd make people smarter. But really it all depends on how you watch tv. There really are two ways of watching TV. You can either watch it to pass the time and choose to gain nothing from it, or you can watch it with your brain and choose to get the most out of it. The amount I've learned over the years from television? I feel sad for the people who still think there is nothing to benefit from it. You just kind of have to know how to watch to get the most out of it.
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From:orangesky33
Date:July 16th, 2006 05:39 am (UTC)
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"Television isn't just the idiot box anymore. Ask anyone who has tried to follow the multiple storylines on "Lost" if he or she thinks it's a show for dummies. Watch any episode of "Veronica Mars" or "The Shield" and try telling me that those characters aren't at least as complicated and well drawn as those in any novel, play or film."

Yeah, Amanda is also totally my hero for the day (er..night), since A-effing-MEN!

I admit that I am a bit of a TV snob toward most reality shows, just like I am snob to quite a bit of current cinema fare and certain variations of music, for I mostly feel I can't gain any general lesson or insight with most I've watched AND enjoy myself. Where as, I do both pretty effortlessly with my scripted shows. Plus, 'reality' just seems to lack the depth and realism of the characters I visit every week. Thus, I watch sometimes, but couldn't imagine really following all that avidly, with the exception of a few things (I watch Kathy Griffin's show quite a lot, I will admit, and the show '30 Days' on the FX channel manages insight rather well).

It really does baffle me that television is meet with such deep disdain. The view that's it all eating bugs and Donald Trump is pretty freaking narrow, for these types that are suppose to be like the epitome of insight for not watching.

Also, it's not as though being away from television will guarentee one the ability to keep at bay from Paris Hilton or anything, since she's already gotten her fingers in three different entertainment mediums as is. *Shudder*


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From:pixie37373
Date:July 16th, 2006 01:57 pm (UTC)
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Amen!
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From:iheartbridges
Date:July 17th, 2006 04:43 am (UTC)
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I'm going to come back and actually read this and comment, but I wanted to comment to wave [*waves*], say hello [*says hello*] and apologize for not being around so much often [*apologizes*]. I've been seeing your posts, but being a terrible comment-er.

:\
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From:iheartbridges
Date:July 18th, 2006 04:54 am (UTC)
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I heart you, and the author of this article (WOOO CONNECTICUT POST!) because it rocks.

I should do a list of Things I've Learned From Television. [#1 - "Smart" has an A in it (thank you, Homer Simpson), etc]

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