Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Do we expect too much from television?

We are living in a world that is experiencing a creative boom in terms of television and the arts.  There are more good to great shows on now than at any other time in this year of 2012.

We've gotten to the point, in fact, where we judge people because of what they watch.  Ask someone their favorite show, and if they respond with anything other than Mad Men, Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad, and we immediately dismiss them as credible talking heads.

God help them if they say Jersey Shore.

But with all the television shows out there, it's not possible for them all to be great.  Yet do we, as a viewing audience, have a right to expect more than someone can develop?

It's not enough to just entertain now, shows need to teach.  They need to tell us something about ourselves, our world, our family or God.  There is a necessity that philosophical ideas be explored if a show wants to be considered great, and a show cannot just simply rest on its laurels.  It needs to constantly evolve and push the envelope, or we will turn on it quicker than when Hulk Hogan turned on the Hulkamaniacs by siding with the nWo.

Every episode of every show is dissected and subjected to ridicule throughout the web, by legitimate television critics and by the blogosphere.  It's impossible for someone to do something on a show that is not scrutinized in depth.  We know when characters are being killed off, when buildings are getting blown up and when showrunners are being fired.

So is this a good thing and is this fair?  Do we actually expect too much from our television shows?

I don't think it's too much to ask that a show has more going on than action.  I don't think we necessarily have to be satisfied with a show that doesn't make us think.  For years, television had the rap that it was mindless and the evil stepchild of its more evolved and acceptable film counterparts.  Television was never supposed to exhibit good and evil, it was never supposed to show a knowledge of God and morals, and it was never supposed to act as a character study.

It was an escape from reality, nothing more than fluff to pass the time before the nightly news.

That is not the case any more.  We look for morals, we look for religion, we look for meaning.  The themes are just as important as the story now, and if those themes don't mesh with our worldview, we don't want any part of it.

The most common way that people find this website is by searching for a particular show + Catholic, or + moral.  We want shows that embrace our Catholic faith.  We want shows that feature virtuous characters, characters that are good because they follow the Natural Law.  And when those shows don't feature such characters, we want to know if there is some other redeeming quality.  Do people treat God as the omnipotent creator of the world?

Shows that outright reject God or reject his goodness and thus reject any goodness of humanity are not worth watching for many people.  But more importantly, the shows that don't even address such elements are even worse.  The universe of a show needs to recognize this in some way.

We don't expect too much from our shows, we expect those shows to reveal something about the God-created world we live in.  We expect anything we watch, read of listen to to have a knowledge of the existence of God, and that those who embrace him should be rewarded, and those who reject him should be punished.

Shows with Godly themes (however those are presented) will always be the most popular, because we live in a theocentric world, whether people accept that or not.  We want to see how other people present their beliefs in freedom, sin and redemption.  We would love every show to be about something greater than just the crime of the week, but we also know that is not possible.

In the meantime, we can continue to look for our values, for the values of the Church, to be represented in the world around us, and when those presentations make us think and contemplate God, then they have accomplished the mission of any form of art.

And that is why we love tv.  And how can we ever expect too much from a medium that is already providing us with examples of how everything mentioned above is being accomplished?


  1. "we live in a theocentric world, whether people accept that or not." I'm going to steal that.

  2. Absolutely steal it! I tell my Latin students this all the time, it gives them something more to think about than hic, haec, hoc.