June 13, 2007
Enuf Already on the Sopranos
Do you know how many people emailed, called, or asked me what I thought of the last episode of the Sopranos? Enuf already. No, I didn't watch it, nor have I ever watched it. Even renown physicist Murray Gell-Man assumed I was going to tune in and now I have to wade through blog post after blog post about people's take on whether it was a worthy last episode or not.
I'm kind of in the anti-American television camp because frankly 99% of it is crap. When I lived in South Africa, England and Australia with a tenth of the number of channels, there was more compelling content to choose from. My opinion of course.
But apparently the Sopranos was amazing and I missed out on cultural history. I have to admit that I loved West Wing even though I wasn't a regular viewer. I'm not a regular viewer of anything. I have the seasons on DVD (nope, I'm not a TiVo user either), and when its cold, rainy, blah and I'm in the mood to curl up for some nothingness or wit depending on your point of view, I'll pull out a handful of re-runs of content I like OR simply rent a movie. (nope, not a Netflix user either)
Sure, some of Seinfeld's writing was great. As for the others, like Friends, Raymond and Rosie - don't get me started. It appears that I missed out on an entire American entertainment cult, not unlike the following of Laura and Luke's saga on General Hospital in the late eighties/early nineties and Australia's Neighbours, which had nearly every Brit and Aussie glued to their seats for the wedding of Kylie and Jason through to the very last episode. My ex and I even extended our departure from Australia to make sure we were part of the local last episode festivities. (no joke).
While I have a hard time with pop culture most of the time (grew up in the Adirondack mountains, what do you expect??), I love the 'energy' and 'drama' that comes along with some of it. The really creative, get you out of your seat inspiring part of it.
For the most part though, getting sucked into a TV series boils down to this for me -- we have a limited number of hours in our days, weeks, years. That time can either be spent doing things that give life (connecting with people, dancing, having sex with a lover, hiking by a stream in a mountain range full of wildlife, exercising) or in front of a TV or YouTube screen. What thinketh?
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Honey - you know I love you dearly but you're simply being a media snob here. There's nothing inherently bad about television as a medium. We get what we as a society ask for and if most of what is offered on US broadcast and cable is mindless drivel, that's a wake-up call in its own right. But you should always select the brush you paint with carefully and I think the one you're using here is a tad broad.
It comes down to personal preference. Television (and films whether in an overpriced theater or on DVD) are simply the latest manifestations of the storyteller's tool. Goodness knows you read a lot of books. How would you feel if someone blithely dismissed your reading as a self-indulgent waste of time because the books you chose to read were not aligned with what they thought was culturally significant or that you should, instead, be doing something more "life giving"?
The Sopranos was indeed a cultural phenomenon and while I watched it sporadically over the years, I always appreciated the obvious craft and artistry displayed by the writers and actors. Same for the West Wing. And Heroes, which I really enjoy but watch on my own schedule (mostly on planes) via iTunes because TV schedules don't sync well with mine.
Anything done to excess is a bad idea. As the Greeks once advised, "everything in moderation" is the appropriate way to go.
Posted by: Marc Orchant | Jun 13, 2007 9:52:04 AM
Thanks for the preface that you love me dearly Marc. Ditto :-)
Ah yes, in excess is precisely what I mean. When I worked in agencies on the east coast before starting my own, I couldn't go through a hallway or lunch without the conversation being dominated by Friends and programs like it.
Agreed that this refers to only one group of people and not necessarily the masses, yet I discovered that this was true in other company cafeterias as well.
TV is addictive and more often than not, passive not active. I found it both amusing and sad that we stayed in Australia to catch a final of a soap episode I can barely remember the details of today, which is not unlike the hype around the last Seinfeld and Sopranos episode.
Perhaps there's a little media snob in me (from my perspective, I see more content yet less quality or perhaps much harder to find quality content despite the countless tools we have at our disposal) and perhaps part of it is that while amazing art has come from American TV and films over the years, I'm MORE of a fan of active living rather than passive. I think as a nation, we have become a more passive culture and it concerns me.
And such intensity around the Sopranos, even if an American cultural phenomenon, reminded me of that trend.
Like I said, when I want to dive into nothingness, I love watching West Wing reruns. The writers were smart and I 'get the value' and even pleasure that it brings.
That said, we have an issue with quality content and I don't think we talk about that enough.
Posted by: Renee Blodgett | Jun 13, 2007 1:32:41 PM
I'm with you 100%. As a parent, we also decided not to do TV at our house, and I am convinced it has a made a huge difference to our quality of life, and how our child is growing up.
Posted by: Tim | Jun 13, 2007 8:35:11 PM
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