For most of my adult life, and I parenthetically qualify that period as age twenty and up, I labored under the assumption that all TV was trash. I even theorized that Major Network Television was responsible for a massive mental degeneration caused by a series of minute neurological strokes induced in the general population by shows so manipulative and badly written that test audiences were not only required to sign intellectual property disclosure statements before watching, but also medical waivers, thereby releasing the networks of all responsibilities involving possible brain damage in the event of watching those aforementioned production pilots.
Then I discovered Buffy.
I have always held the firm belief that it is our responsibility to be analytical and conscientious about our entire intellectual intake. We should use the same logical deconstruction tools on music, film, internet publication, and all forms of media that we use for traditionally accepted formats like books and scholarly materials. In short, we need to be Critical Thinkers in everything we experience—our ability to make valuable meaning should not be inhibited by our cerebral laziness.
Because of this firm belief, I felt, more often than not, T.V. did not hold up well against this form of scrutiny—by its very commercialized and mind-numbing nature it was the antithesis of true Auteur Theory. There was no real creative vision to be found. The Networks were merely using television as a means to control what the masses would buy, think, feel, and subsequently experience. Furthermore, before Buffy, I had no idea how television writers/directors/producers figured into the creation of a TV show. I thought shows were either entertaining or not. Entertainers were either beautiful or not. I was either going to throw up while watching or not.
Are ya following me?
But then I started watching Buffy, and consequently started listening to the director/creator/producer/writer commentaries offered on the DVDs. I was fascinated. Joss, Jane Espenson, and Marti Nixion, to name a few of creative forces, really had an overall plan for the show. There were distinct character archs, character development, symbolism, a strong sense of occult myth, and an extremely deliberate and conscientious creative decision process.
Television really had something offer. This was exciting! Es Las Verdad?
Now for the bad news. Joss’s creations are still very much in the minority. Most Television shows, especially the money-makers, are homogenized cash cows for the networks. Let me give you an example. Up until recently, I was watching one of the more popular and meticulously crafted soap operas TV has to offer: Grey’s Anatomy. I discovered after more than two seasons on the show, a character was getting the axe not for creative purposes, but because the actress playing her was not attractive enough for test audiences to accept. It was okay for her to be a smart doctor with a cold and distant personality for two seasons. It was NOT okay for her to have a love life. She had a relationship with another doctor on the show who was prettier than she. When audiences didn’t like it, she got the axe.
Can you imagine if novelists wrote this way? Seriously, picture what would happen if J.K. Rowling were told, “We’re sorry Ms. Rowling, but test audiences didn’t like that you killed Dumbledore. If you don’t bring him back, we’ll fire you.” Absolutely absurd!
I could go on, but I think I better tell you the point of all of this. Television does have creative possibilities, but just like food, ‘You are what you eat.”
PS I’m watching the FOX series "Bones" right now. It’s good stuff. Also Joss has a new one coming out in February called “Doll House.”