June 8, 2016
A few weeks ago I was assisting at a photoshoot, and got talking with one of the creatives present. The small talk started light, with polite enquiries about being on-the-job and trading thoughts on current affairs. Then came the game-changer question:
“Do you watch House of Cards?”
No, I felt my breath getting shallower; I don’t really follow ‘heavy’ shows like that.
“So, what kind of shows do you watch? Breaking Bad? Scandal?”
Through a frozen smile I flippantly counted off the last few shows I remembered playing on TV, shows I wouldn’t immediately switch the channel on – The Big Bang Theory, 2 Broke Girls… “Oh I’ve recently been liking this show called The Catch!” I mustered.
To his defense, he did try to hide the natural grimace. But when I stumbled trying to answer his “Oh. What’s that?”, we both knew the conversation was over. Thumbs were twiddled in the awkward silence till we were called to get back to work; thank goodness.
That said, it’s definitely not the first time I’ve found myself in this uncomfortable situation – and all because of television. Somehow my complete disinterest in shows with deep and dark plots, psychologically tortured characters, and moody conspiracies translates into me being less of an intellectual than people who do take an active interest. There’s the blink-and-miss-it flicker of contempt the moment I mention I’d rather keep up with the Kardashians than the fifth season of Suits (it’s still not over?), or that I prefer lighthearted shows. But honestly – what’s the deal with that?
Scandal (left) and The Catch (right) both feature strong female leads, and happen to share the same executive producer, Shonda Rhimes.
People hasten to gush over Mad Men and Game of Thrones (though I’ll admit, I’m mighty impressed by the cult status it’s grown for itself over the years) – yet nobody would ever dare confess that they watch Scream Queens. Not in public, at least. And if you openly adore a comedy series, it better be something a little more indie, like Parks and Recreation; or a classic fave like F.R.I.E.N.D.S., which no one ever seems ashamed of.
So when did television shows become such a big factor in determining your circle or personality? Perhaps the rise of Netflix in recent years has something to do with it, but regardless, cultivating a false sense of elitism can only be considered an unfortunate side effect. While it’s great that broadcast entertainment is coming into its own these days, at the end of the day, that’s still just what it is – entertainment. Squealing over Chanel Oberlin and her borderline tacky comedy-horror antics in the Kappa House shouldn’t just be left to the ‘bimbos’, and isn’t an indication of not knowing how to appreciate “good” TV. Just because a storyline doesn’t involve complex characters and a hypebeast-approved colour palette, doesn’t mean that any less amount of hard work and effort went into producing it. Nor does it (always) mean there’s a lack of decent character development.
And the converse is true as well – thought-provoking drama serials that take seasons to develop and grow aren’t always the most stimulating to watch. Suits for one, had an undeniably good start and a pretty decent run; but millions clearly lost interest along the way, which resulted in finale viewership dropping from 3.47 million in Season 1 to 1.71 million at the end of Season 5. It just got tiring, having to pay such close attention to every legal jargon-filled line of dialogue.
Image from facebook.com/SUITSonUSA
The fact is, some people just like their TV entertainment short and snappy; to be able to put on at any point in the series and not have to worry relentlessly over what they’ve missed from one skipped episode. No doubt some of the highly rated shows out there are proper works of art, with a commendable mix of nifty camera work, cinematography, plot twists and relatable characters. But can you really just have a random episode of Scandal come on and watch it with the same ease as one from Modern Family? If there’s ever a cause for applause for people who selectively watch “good” TV, it’s that they’ve managed to diligently follow through and last a good four or five seasons.
Maybe you’ve felt like me before, on the squeamish receiving end of TV snobbery; or you’ve unknowingly perpetuated it with mob mentality and unintentional body language. Either way, it’s time to leave this bizarre brand of elitism behind – because to each his or her own. I don’t hate on you for choosing to spend your time and resources on a buffet at The Line; so don’t hate on me for choosing McNuggets.