A Time of Thanksgiving: Television

During Thanksgiving we celebrate all the things we love: family, faith, purpose in life, and blessings. We gather together and through our family traditions share with each other our gratitude. As a writer I have many other things I’m thankful for as well. The worlds that come alive through books, movies and television can never replace the things we love but through these portals we can take journeys we otherwise could not. Let me share a few of my television blessings…

Television Banner Thanksgiving

Some people’s Thanksgiving traditions have everything to do with football (go Washington Redskins!). Television has become a gathering place for family and friends in modern America, where we can bond over a bit of holiday cheer (Macy’s Day parade anyone?) and sports passions. It makes us more aware of the need to spend more quality time with each other and less energy pursuing those fleeting treasures of the world.

NO TV GROWING UP!

TV Thanks - Hulk HoganMy mother was all about reading when I was a kid, that didn’t mean she was adverse to a little visual entertainment if her children were willing…we weren’t. My siblings and I were after the active life. There were too many of us to be interested in settling down in front of the boob tube. We sneered at Sesame Street and turned up our noses at Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. We were children of discriminating taste, much to our mother’s credit. And then my father got transferred overseas and that really limited our exposure. With one channel servicing all of the American ex-pats, we could choose from sports programs or nightly wrestling (Hogan, Hogan, Hogan!) Needless-to-say when we returned to the United States we didn’t miss cable when it turned out we couldn’t get it in our neighborhood (on the outskirts of the city). So no television for this writer as a youth…and that’s a good thing.

TV Thanks - Scarecrow and Mrs King

The first real television show I remember were reruns of Scarecrow and Mrs. King. A show I’d have dearly liked to watch each and every episode of as a teenager. Not that such a thing was possible, sitting down at the same time every week, even remembering to watch television just wasn’t a skill I possessed. Looking back I can tell you this was a major blessing from my childhood. As kids we didn’t know there were things we were supposed to want. As a less consumerism consumed adult I can say, Thank you, Mom! And now as a writer intrigued with every form of storytelling I can enjoy the delights of the small screen. As an adult. With discriminating taste.

REALITY TV VS. K-DRAMA, FIGHT!

When reality television became big in the 90s everyone said it was a passing fad and would fade as people got tired of it.

I think I can safely say that day never came.

And too bad it didn’t!

With our obsessive desire to watch only things that we believe “truly” happened we have lost what is good and believable about storytelling. Our country has taken delight in watching people rip each other apart, stab them in the back and scream invectives at the drop of an insult. Normal people going about their normal lives have become overnight sensations as they’ve gotten drunk, had sex and done drugs. While not always this sensational, the “reality” fad has given rise to a generation of television watchers who delight in the misery of others and the idolization of every sort of celebrity that can be imagined. (Really think about this!)

I’m not sure which is worse.

The good news is I’ve been blessed with the antidote. K-dramas (which are basically dramas made in South Korea). Everyone loves them. The Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Germans, Americans all across the northern and southern continents, the list goes on. I talked about their music, here, but didn’t really go into why I loved them so much. Two factors stand out and make K-dramas a blessing of the highest proportion.

First, there is this nostalgia that you feel turning one on. It’s not that they are old-fashioned, in fact, many plot lines are poached to American television and much of the fashion and technology is cutting edge. There is this sense of respect that Koreans have for one another, it infuses the way one person treats another, even if they are enemies or rivals. There’s plenty of conflict, comedy, love and villains, but there is this level of civility that is extinct in America.

The best thing about K-dramas is I know I’m not going to turn on an episode and run into sex. Not only is their sex not gratuitous but I’ve yet to see a bedroom scene. Period.

They don’t go at it on television! That merits repeating. They don’t have sex on television!

Kissing is seen as a big deal and getting married is a massive step in their lives. I love that. Sex is a deeply intimate act between two people and if it’s not they keep it to themselves. We’ve lost a lot of what is good and wonderful about life. Sensationalism is so rampant in our lives nowadays. Sometimes I just want an escape. How can I lose when I get all the drama and none of the crassness so present in reality television today?

TiVO, STREAMING & THE INTERNET

In the last 15 years we’ve all become used to getting our media, especially television from more than just turning on our big screen television sets. Netflix and Hulu-plus are my go to streaming sources for television. Why watch a movie when you can watch an entire season of your favorite show? Streaming media has become huge, articles online posted simply to share video clips from various news shows. The best part is I’m not constrained by the borders of the good ole US of A; I’ve gone international! There are K-dramas, of course, but also British BBC shows, Canadian imports, telenovas and anime from Japan. And I hope there are sugar-plum programs in my future from other countries as well.

I can readily admit I couldn’t have watched near the television I have without the ability to record multiple programs. TiVo started the trend and boy am I thankful! In the past you’d have to choose one or the other and now we can choose four programs in the same hour straight from our cable box. A side benefit is skipping the commercials (though I still see the products as they whizz by) and you can save 45 minutes over those three hours – that’s almost a whole show free folks!

(Watch this video to learn all the things you are missing out on learning from watching K-dramas!)

The internet has widened the availability of these services even more, but more importantly, there’s nothing the internet can’t share with us. Never would we have ever thought to watch K-dramas if not for the internet and sites like You-Tube where niche interests have spread to in popularity across the world (hence the offerings on Netflix and the like, but also the popularity of K-dramas in places such as South America and Germany). And I’d be embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve looked up about a program, an episode, or actor (what have we seen him in again?) and found another show… I. Must. See.

The Evolving Face of Television

As a writer I can’t imagine my life without a little bit of television, yet I don’t want it to consume my life or my pocketbook. The face of television (and advertising with it) is changing. I can’t say it’s a bad thing, in fact, I’m loving it! I’ve felt it bless my life even if just with an extra hour to spend with my family. During this time of gratitude may we all ponder the things that have touched our lives. May we share with our families and friends the love and thanksgiving we hold for each of them.

What are your favorite television things? How has changes in how you watch television made a difference in your life? What programs made you the television watcher you are today?
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