I love television and. . . .at the risk of sounding like a freewheeling kook. . . it is my buddy.
It hangs out with me on rainy days, while I do my homework, and as I fold my laundry. I look forward to weekly visits from my televised friends as much as I look forward to my Sunday phone call from my old college roommate Lori.
Like any friendship, there are ebbs and flows. TV can surprise and delight me. Or she can disappoint me with some unfortunate decisions. Sometimes a friend moves away, but a new kid comes on the block and a new relationship can begin. And like the friendships I have in life, the programs that I enjoy are from different walks of life and thrill and challenge me in different ways.
As the television season is ending and a new one has been introduced at network upfronts, I am reflective of the relationships that sustained me from this television season.
I have had such fun watching Hollywood Game Night on Thursdays. The combination of the celebs and civilians playing silly games makes me smile. The grandeur of Downton Abbey (heck, most of Masterpiece Theatre) always adds international class to my Sunday nights. And even though the self-centered angst of all four of the Girls can be infuriating, I always know who they are. They are frustratingly consistent.
Shonda Rhimes took a strange turn with the spy-dad story on Scandal creating a confusing and somewhat dull season. I visited every week, but not with the same enthusiasm as I had in the past. Similarly, Harry Connick, Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban have made a fun playgroup, but American Idol’s humdrum contestants left me cold.
This television season also saw the departure of some dear friends. Grey’s Anatomy’s Christina Yang (Sandra Oh), Person of Interest’s Officer Joss Carter (Taraji P. Henson), and it’s just plain foolish to get too close to any of the Game of Thrones characters.
Still, much like camp, we make new friends in the summer. For example, in June, Murder in the First on TNT brings Taye Diggs back to television as a homicide detective. In July, WeTV’s The Divide willoffer a diverse cast with the lead, Marin Ireland, questioning her role in a man’s death sentence.
And, like having a new friend with a swimming pool or an Easy Bake Oven, online viewing offers a decadently selfish way to replace much of the time spent with traditional television viewing. Not only can I stream a missed episode of The Americans, but I can catch up on those I’ve been meaning to see such as full seasons of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Parenthood, and The Goldbergs.
The Internet has also provided opportunities for producers to create original programming without the structural bounds of traditional broadcast and cable networks. Netflix and Amazon Prime have cultivated their own series. Now programs such as House of Cards and Alpha House give audiences alternatives to the weekly viewing that has long been the foundation of commercial television.
Akin to sitting at a different table in the cafeteria, there is a bit of naughtiness in the change. Much like the first original programming on HBO (Dream On and The Larry Sanders Show), this Over-the-Top content is sophisticated, quirky, and slightly controversial.
This type of programming features characters that are diverse and complex, letting viewers get to know personalities they may not have otherwise met. For example, Orange is the New Black’s transgendered actress Laverne Coxas credit card thief Sophia Burset has been one to watch this year.
All right, even though I’m passionate about them, I have to admit that I know these aren’t really my friends. The word “friends” implies a two way relationship—one that requires reciprocated trust and mutual bonds. The characters I find on the screens in my home don’t actually like me back. Still, unlike real friends, they don’t want to share my pizza and never ask for a ride to the airport.