56 – The unholy power of the television series.
We’ve come a long way since the humble beginnings of televised dramas; and as they have gone from shape to shape, rising and falling variety and content they have remained a staple part of our media diet. It’s the bread and butter of British and American audiences, providing us with extended escapism as the episodes drag out the stories. It can be the most basic of formulae, but it always works: Love triangles, scandals and loss all jumbled up with little twists thrown in here and there; it always works well! The drive of most ‘serious’ dramas is human loss, whilst modern comedy makes heavy use of the ‘bardic function’. This can all be traced back to the days of Shakespeare and Chaucer, and it doesn’t take long for you to recognize the plays and writings of old as the source of everything we watch on the box…
Yup, we have our televised origins rooted in some solid (if not ancient) stuff, it is things like this that make me wonder how much of culture is truly original? I don’t think we will ever be able to answer that question fully, and if we were we’d be kidding ourselves.
I also wonder how on earth television series can be so mind-numbingly captivating, how they can be (as Theodor Adorno so cynically proclaimed them to be) ‘The Opium of the Masses’, overtaking religion, folklore and industry? The answer is hidden within vigorous speculation and inevitably biased conclusions, so I answered this query with another question.
“What do I like to watch?”
And before I knew it my list of television series alone were racking up quite a bit. I confess I am not a very keen ‘watcher’ of television, I think I speak for most of my generation when I say I get what I want from the internet without even thinking about flicking through the television, but even with this being the case I realised I was consuming more mass media products than you could shake a stick at. Perhaps not soaps or poxy talent shows (which over the past decade have become a pesky infestation courtesy of the Cowell industry) but a large contingent of American shows, as well as the occasional well crafted British show.
They all come and go in a seasonal fashion, temporarily hooking us to the screens in a totally oblivious fixation. There is always something to be addicted to, and when we don’t get our fix of the shows we create cultural monuments and places of worship dedicated to their existence and preservation.
This has been happening since before I was born, and I can’t speak for a lot of the shows. But the ones I adore such as ‘The Walking Dead’, ‘Being Human’ or ‘Misfits’, I see to it that they are remembered by myself and fellow fans (I have been doing this since I could remember, with shows that come and go over the years). Undoubtedly the proliferation of the open media and web culture has played a crucial role in the mutual worship of the still-prevelant ‘Opium of the Masses’.