Friday, February 1, 2008


Can television be an important place for serious cultural exchange? It is even more difficult than cinema for television to have lasting significance, due to the way TV is tied to money and sponsors. This is evident in the lake of good programming in spite of the huge output. However, it can be an even better example of how successful artists and communicators need not only have important ideas to communicate, but they also need to be able to connect with the audience.
Public television in the US is a good example. The attitude in most circles of Public TV is that only PBS can transmit shows of true artistic merit. By their definition, true art can never be recognized or appreciated by the masses; therefore an enlightened government must support these programs. The fact is, that while PBS occasionally supports a good idea, much of their “art” is simply boring.
To see that commercial TV can succeeded in being entertaining and still engaged in important ideas and thoughts, one need no more than list some of the programs that have succeeded: The Twilight Zone, The Andy Griffith Show, Doctor Who (a British public television program), Star Trek, Columbo, The Simpsons, Quantum Leap, The X Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and 24 just to name a few. The fact that most of these shows even made it to air is a testament to the truly amazing vision and ability to communicate that the creators had. The fact that they went on to success and repeated seasons in a medium where most shows aren’t given a chance beyond several episodes reflects in each case the amazing endeavor of the hundreds of people required for them to succeed.
The answer, then, is yes. Television has at times produced programming that is at the same time entertaining and thought provoking. It deserves a place in serious cultural conversation and thought.

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