At least, television as we know it. In the two years I’ve lived in this apartment, I’ve probably tuned into an actual television channel a grand total of five times. Generally, I do it as an absolute last resort for entertainment when I have no other options. Here is a typical sequence of events, represented for no reason whatsoever as a conversation I have with several versions of myself:
[Pessimistic Salman]: Holy shit, I am so freaking bored. Life is so boring.
[Optimistic Salman]: Umm… well there’s always TV! Television has many interesting programs and so many channels. I’m sure you’ll find something interesting!
[Pessimistic Salman]: You said that last time. I don’t believe you.
[Optimistic Salman]: Oh c’mon, that was 6 months ago. I’m sure at least one thing worth watching is on TV right now.
[Pessimistic Salman]: Sigh… fine.
*Salman spends 4 minutes flipping through all the channels, including some show about Jon, Kate and their 8 Mistakes*
[Optimistic Salman]: *shoots himself*
[Pessimistic Salman]: Told you.
Now, there are actually several contributing factors to the downfall of Television as we know it:
1. There is no such thing as a reality show
Some people say things like “reality television is really popular these days”. I have no idea what that means. There is nothing realistic about any of the shows that claim to fit under the fake umbrella known as “Reality TV”. I now present you with a collection of modifications that I would make to several such shows which would induce more realistic conditions, and thus give them a chance to qualify as “Reality TV”:
- Survivor: A bunch of people are stranded on an island, and everyone dies because they are stranded on an island.
- Big Brother: A bunch of idiots spend their entire lives living together in a house, and everyone dies because they spend all their time in the house, go broke and cannot afford food or water.
- The Real Housewives: The husbands of a group of incredibly annoying housewives all decide to get a divorce after seeing how awesome life is without their incredibly annoying wives. The show is quickly renamed Desperate X-Housewives, and then subsequently sued for copyright infringement.
- Jon and Kate Plus 8: Jon and Kate both die tragic deaths by inserting a cotton tip too far into their heads. They never have any children. (OK, fine, this one is less realistic and more me just dreaming).
In all seriousness though, there are a few examples of excellent Reality TV out there. Discovery channel is one of them. On that note, if you haven’t seen BBC’s documentary entitled Planet Earth, you need to download/rent/buy it immediately. It’s quite possibly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen on TV.
2. The black hole of character exaggeration
If you think back about a decade, you will reminisce in the glory of what a typical TV week used to be. Shows like Friends, Seinfeld, and The Simpsons used to dominate prime time. The issue today is not a lack of good shows. Rather, it’s a lack of good shows that stay good for longer than 2 seasons. Every time a show demonstrates potential, it proceeds to shoot itself in the face, and begin an immediate campaign for cancellation.
Take Family Guy for example. This show suffered the same fate The Simpsons did. Basically, when a show has no real ongoing storyline, it is just a sequence of random events, which is supposed to keep it interesting. Unfortunately, even random events will get repetitive eventually. As a result, the writers stop writing actual material, and instead excrete endless amounts of what I like to call character exaggeration episodes. That is a fancy and somewhat complementary way of saying that they basically just make every character act like an extreme version of themselves. Peter/Homer no longer is a regular guy with some eccentric characteristics, instead he is just plain demented. Meg is no longer the unpopular geek, she is just a 5-second hate crime scene inserted into every episode.
This effect also plagued Friends in its final seasons. Ross was a never-ending divorce joke, Monica a psycho-cleaner joke, and Phoebe just a plain joke. Once that happens, viewers can’t identify with the characters and it just becomes a puppet show with fake laughter (side note: did you know they still use dead people’s laughs?).
3. Arrested Development was cancelled
No comment. David Cross put it best.
4. Lady Gaga is allowed on Television
She/he/it induces ocular damage on a regular basis. Need I say more?
All in all, these are just a few reasons why TV has lost its appeal. I finally cancelled basic cable the other day, even though my cable internet now costs more without it. I could no longer tolerate the idea that my hard-earned dollars were somehow contributing to a freaking bird’s nest plastered on Lady Gaga’s face.