In Defense of “Bad” Television

Posted 2/18/2011 by Amy Kristen in Labels: , , , , , , ,

We’ve all internally judged those guys and gals that are confident enough to openly declare their affection for such TV shows as The Jersey Shore and The Real Housewives of (Insert Unfortunate City Here). I am definitely one of those types, my eyes narrowing slightly with distaste whenever they’re brought up in conversation. How anyone can sit through a full episode of Pretty Wild is beyond me.

And yet… I have a confession to make: I’ve been watching American Idol the past few weeks, and I like it. A lot. So much so that it’s set on my DVR as a season pass, along with more easily defendable choices. And while I recognize that it’s mindless reality television, I’m beginning to understand its place in my lazy-weekend television line-up.

We artistic/educated types tend to be more critical of how we spend our time because we’re all incredibly busy people with personal missions to continually improve ourselves and the world around us. Time vegging out in front of the TV is usually equated to time wasted, one of the most unforgivable of transgressions.

However, if you let go of those inhibitions and just accept that what you’re about to watch serves no other purpose than pure enjoyment, watching “fluff” entertainment can be a truly fulfilling experience. One recent afternoon when I was home sick with a horrible case of strep throat, I watched the first episode of American Idol Season 10, which I had recorded merely out of curiosity. It turns out both Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler refreshing additions to the judges’ table, and I caught myself halfway through the program with a big smile on my pale face – a fact that surprised me greatly. I was enjoying this stupid show, even while acknowledging how fruitless and over-processed it truly is. Some of the contestants made me smile, some of Tyler’s more ridiculous critiques made me laugh, and Ryan Seacrest’s perfectly white teeth made me feel a sense of calm whenever he smiled. Granted, I was forced into this mindless position by my 103 degree fever, but I couldn’t seem to come up with an acceptable explanation of why I had ever stopped allowing myself to cease thinking for an hour or two and just be.

In a way, I felt like a kid again; after all, don’t children play just for the thrill of it? Kids have yet to absorb the societal expectations of maturity such as responsibility and “success” as defined by professional advancements. They don’t evaluate how they spend their time; they just act on their basic impulses. If they feel like playing make-believe, they do it. If they feel like running around and screaming, they do it. If they feel like lying in front of the TV for hours at a time, they do it. Why shouldn’t we adults be allowed these same privileges of freedom every once in a while, as well?

Now, it is also true that many Americans who have not yet achieved “Idol” status indulge themselves in these privileges far too often, contributing to a large population of Couch Potatoes; this article is not for them. No, this is a call to all my fellow overachievers: as a wise parrot in the book Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates (by one of my favorite authors, Tom Robbins) proclaims, “People of zee wurl, relax!

It’s okay to be mindless once in a while. It’s okay to let go and have some fun. It’s okay to be selfish once in a while. It’s okay to spend a day without being “productive.” It’s okay to absolutely nothing. It’s okay to watch America’s Next Top Model if it makes you happy. There are too many daily stressors in our lives that threaten our sense of sanity; if bad television can help restore our sense of wholeness and wellbeing, then by all means let’s allow ourselves to appreciate it!

In short, I am going to stand by my affection for watching American Idol, Cupcake Wars on the Food Network, or whatever happens to be on E! at 10:00 at night. I’m going to turn on the television and escape once in a while without feeling guilty, because I know I’m actually doing my spirit a favor.

3 comment(s) to... “In Defense of “Bad” Television”


Shrimp Cocktail said...

There's nothing wrong with American Idol and Cupcakes Wars, but most of these other shows don't do anything as a favor to the spirit.

It's never ok to be selfish but it is ok to take care of yourself.

E! network should be banned from television, and reality tv in general is drama people watch to feel somewhat better about their own lives or to just stupefy themselves to reality and a general sense of what actually matters in life. I'd hardly call that an escape, certain media has too much of a profound effect on perception to take its negativity lightly.

Nonetheless, everyone has their own little guilty pleasures, but you have to admit there is a reason that people feel a sense of guilt when partaking in them.

It's a sad day when Kim Kardashian brings in more money than the average school teacher and breaking world news involves what someone wore on the red carpet.

steak said...

oh, and today the average child constantly plays video games, uses profanity, is unaware of world events/culture, is sexually curious and doesn't have much of an imagination at all...I wonder why?

Anonymous said...

Such good points, most reality television shows are utter crap. At the same time, Amy does point out that she's not writing to the Average American, she's encouraging people who are "overachievers" to allow themselves to take a break once in a while. I think they're completely different arguments, both valid.

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