Saturday, December 6, 2008

ADMIT IT, YOU WATCH TELEVISION

Photo of Jason Starr in Central ParkThe Kill Zone is thrilled to welcome author Jason Starr as our guest blogger today. Jason's book THE FOLLOWER was just re-released as a mass market paperback, and I can attest that it's a dark, funny story that absolutely everyone should read. Bret Easton Ellis said, "The Follower is Jason Starr's masterpiece," and The New York Times described it as "Extremely chilling." Think of it as a dating "how not-to."

Without further ado...

Our TV broke last week. It was an LCD set—an old model—and when the inverters go, that’s it, the set’s dead. We have a new TV now, but for several days we were forced to go TV-less. I know, the horror, the horror, right?

Actually, going without a TV was a bit of a shock. My family and I live in a fairly small Manhattan apartment and the sudden quiet was startling. SuddenFollowerly I felt like I was back in the 1800’s, living in the Little House on the Prairie, and I had to entertain the family at night with my fiddle. I was able to read more, which was great, but it didn’t really fill the void.

I mainly watch sports and movies on TV, and cable series such as Entourage, Dexter, and Californication. Not so-long ago there was a big stigma among people, especially writers, about admitting to television watching at all. At parties, if the subject of television came up a writer would say proudly, “I’m too busy to watch TV.” Some went further and claimed, “I don’t watch TV at all.” Others—the really busy people—would boast, “I got rid of my TV.”

I always suspected that people who claimed they didn’t watch TV were closet TV- aholics. They probably sat with their asses glued to their couches four hours a night, watching the entire lineup of the dumbest sitcoms.

But something happened, I think around the time The Sopranos got popular. Suddenly it became socially acceptable to admit to TV watching, and a big stigma to not watch TV. If you didn’t watch The Sopranos, you were considered to be some kind of freak, and if you didn’t watch the finale--fuggedaboutit. I think there’s no doubt that the quality of television in general has improved greatly over the years, but there has been a change in our attitudes toward TV as well.

Now being TV-literate, especially cable TV-literate, is much more socially acceptable, even vital. I actually feel wiresorry for the writers who don’t watch TV because at parties and mystery conferences they’ll inevitably hear: “What, you haven’t seen every episode of The Wire? Oh my God, what’s wrong with you?...“What, you don’t watch Dexter? Really? You have no idea what you’re missing.”….“What, you’ve never seen Californication? You’re kidding me? Really?”....“You’ve never heard of The Shield?”

I’ve seen some television-deprived writers embellish their TV watching, smiling vaguely and nodding a lot, not wanting to feel left out when people start discussing the latest shows. That’s right, writers have now come full circle and they actually exaggerate the amount of television they watch.

So I’m wondering, how much television do you watch? And do you find that lately it’s more socially acceptable to admit it?

 

JASON STARR is the Barry and Anthony Award-winning nine crime novels which have been published in ten languages. His latest thriller from St. Martin’s Press, THE FOLLOWER, is on-sale this week in a new mass market paperback edition. Visit www.jasonstarr.com and sign up for Jason Starr’s newsletter for a chance to win a 50-dollar Amazon gift certificate, and other exciting prizes. Newsletter subscribers will also be eligible to win free advance copies of Jason Starr’s next thriller PANIC ATTACK, which will be on-sale in August, 2009.

19 comments:

  1. Thanks for joining us, Jason! Ah, always SUCH a pleasure to meet a fellow tv-aholic. "I'm Michelle, and I watch A LOT of television." Thank God most of my shows only run 10-15 episodes consecutively, otherwise I'd never get anything done.
    Although I believe the stigma has abated among crime writers, I have to say the more "literary" writers are still TV snobs. I was at a party a few months ago with a bunch of them, all deploring the state of our culture and bemoaning television. To which I said, "That's such a shame, so you have no idea what's happening on Project Runway." And the three women turned to me en masse and, speaking over each other, said something along the lines of, "Ohmigod, can you BELIEVE they voted off Kat?"
    I rest my case.

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  2. Jason,
    Thanks for stopping by. I watch too much TV, way too much TV and I've never made any bones about it. I like sitting, closing down and being entertained. I don't think watching violence on the tube has made me more violent.

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  3. Thanks for dropping by the Zone, Jason. Great topic. I love TV and proudly display my 60” Sony HDTV in my living room/home theater. The mother lode is movies, mostly from Netflix. But shows like Fringe and Criminal Minds top my list. Two and a Half Men and Big Bang are laugh-out-loud favorites. And of course there’s Dexter—Jeff created the most unique and intriguing anti-hero since Dr. Lector. I write during the day (mostly afternoon) so my nights are free for TV.

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  4. LOL, that's true, Michelle, I was really thinking more of crime writers....Glad to see you all openly admit to the your TV habit. Amazingly now people say "I don't have ENOUGH time to watch TV," openly admitting that TV is so important that they need to "create time" for it, akin with finding time to spend with their kids, etc

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  5. I confess Jason. I tried to maintain control, beginning with a small 17" b&w in a discreet corner of our first apartment livingroom, but over the years the device morphed and grew as I have, beefing up to a fat, room dominating console, at one point. Even after forced dieting, the screen expanded like a favourite, hockey jersey as the device's depth slimmed wafer thin. It still wants its own furniture, and its tentacles spread to every corner.

    Worse, it reproduced. As my family grew, little versions of Telly, too, appeared in dens, sewing rooms and the kids' spaces, taking over young lives before they knew it was possible to exist without images flickering in the corners of their retinas. And you're right about our official surrender; now that we have to pay for the content, watching has become another disatisfying status symbol.

    I'd ask what we've come to, but I think the answer is staring back at me, on the device that displays these words as I type.

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  6. I don't know when it happened, but I find I hardly watch any television at all anymore. I use the evenings for writing, so I'd tape the few shows I watch. Sometimes it took weeks to get around to watching them, and sometimes it would take several sittings to finish watching a program. I began to care less and less.

    I can remember setting our VCRs (we have 3, but haven't bothered to upgrade to DVR's) so I wouldn't miss a show while we went on vacation, but now, I hardly care if I miss an episode of a favorite series.

    We don't get any of the premium channels, so we've been known to Netflix our way through series like Dexter. Maybe my attention span is on the wane as I age. But I really WOULD rather be writing.

    I should probably try to get with it so I know what people are talking about, but I can't seem to stay in the chair long enough.

    That being said, hubby and I have a 'date' tonight to watch the new "Librarian" installment, and I've set the VCR as backup (because something is bound to interrupt us if there's a show we actually WANT to watch.)

    Hubby, on the other hand, can't seem to be in his office at home without the tv set on -- not sure how much he actually watches, but it's on.

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  7. Terry,
    You don't know what you're missing.
    :)
    Had to say it
    :)

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  8. I'm sure I'm missing a lot, Jason ... but then, wouldn't you rather I take that time and read your book?
    (Had to say that!). It's not that I don't watch any tv, it just seems that I no longer dedicate time to it. TV is normally part of some sort of multi-tasking, like when I'm folding laundry, ironing, or way back when -- doing needlepoint. I suppose if I had a tv in the kitchen I'd watch more. I just can't seem to stay engrossed when it takes an hour to show 40 minutes of 'story.'

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  9. Hi Jason
    Thanks for stopping by! I watch too much TV for my husband's taste and the majority of it is embarrassingly 'low-brow'. When we renewed our cable I had to confess that I couldn't live without the sci fi channel or BBC America and my husband was appalled...But I remain unrepentant!

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  10. My husband and I have such disparate tastes that all we ever watch are old movies together! But boy do we watch movies - practically every night. If one of us has an event in the evening the other pigs out on sitcoms/news programs or Sports/game shows. I'm the only person in the country who's never seen "Survivor", but I can say the lines along with the actors in hundreds of movies made between 1935 and yesterday.

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  11. We watch one entertainment program each night, at 10 pm. We record just about everything, so we can watch on our own schedule, unless the show is actually broadcast at 10. Dexter, House, Mad Men, The Closer, Life, Monk, The Wire before it ended -- that's the not to be missed list, but we also watch the Law & Order shows, the original CSI, Without a Trace, ER... am I starting to sound like a TV addict? We just let the recordings pile up on the DVR until holiday or even summer reruns, when we can catch up. One hour a night.

    News is a different matter. We're election junkies, and for the last year, we had the cable news channels on for hours every day and night. This post-election time is a letdown because we got we wanted, we won, and the thrill of the contest is gone. But we still watch more political news and discussion than is probably good for anyone. I even watch Andrea Mitchell's MSNBC program every day when I break for lunch.

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  12. Terry, you got me...I'd MUCH rather you read my book :)
    I didn't mean to suggest though that I think people are replacing reading and writing with TV watching. I just see a trend where they are finding several hours a week for "must see TV."
    Thanks so much for having me here today, keep up the great work on this wonderful blog!

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  13. It was a good post, Jason. I think I'm one of the 'outsiders' -- maybe because I'm older and the tv shows I remember seemed so much better than what's offered today.

    And once they hit reruns, you can read MY books! :-)

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  14. I have TV going on in the background constantly in the late evening, mostly to talking head shows and C-Span. Yeah, I'm a news and politics junkie. There, I've said it!

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  15. Michelle lured me here by billing Jason's post as a "cerebral discussion" on the EMWA list. Hmmm. What makes a blog discussion cerebral or not cerebral? Oh, never mind. When I was a kid, my intellectual parents (both lawyers), kept the TV in the finished but unheated basement. If you wanted to watch something, it took doing (and blankets). I'm still a very selective watcher, one or two series at a time. "24" was a primer in ratcheting up suspense. "West Wing" was the one hour a week of intelligence and integrity in the White House. And now life is imitating art, and I can't get enough of Obama--"Meet the Press," "60 Minutes," and I can't wait for his State of the Union broadcasts. ;)

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  16. Well, I'm Johnny-come-lately to this, but I'll admit it. I watch WAY too much TV. The sad part is, I don't watch current shows because I don't WANT to feel that I CAN'T miss something. It got that way with 24--first season--until the car blew up and the wife 'suddenly got amnesia'. That caught a little too much air over the shark for my taste. When Heroes season 2 was interrupted, I just never went back.

    However, I DO watch far too many sports on TV, and supplement with movies I've seen 100s of times.

    The only show my wife and I watch with supreme regularity is Extreme Home Makeover, because it's just good people doing good things for other good people, and it warms the heart.

    And I admit, I've never seen even one minute of THE WIRE. (I know, I know, tar-and-feather). I'd never even heard of it until Miss Snark started going on about it, but I never got around to it. Ah well....

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  17. I've seen all of THE SOPRANOS, DEADWOOD, and THE WIRE, and spent time this summer with GENERATION KILL. I (very) occasionally watch MY NAME IS EARL and 30 ROCK. Except for that, it's sports and movies on DVD, now that I've got rid of HBO. Really. Honest to God. Never seen DEXTER or THE CLOSER. Won't watch CSI on a bet. It's practically un-American.

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  18. I blame TiVo. I went a few years without watching much TV at all, because I didn't want to schedule myself around the TV grid. But with TiVo, I can watch what I want, when I want. But of course it's now taken over my life and I watch more TV than ever. (Sigh)

    Eric

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