The Social ‘Net Works: Television as Discussion Vehicle

When the Internet as we know it was but a twinkle in our parents’ and grandparents’ eyes, the idea of instant, worldwide commentary and discussion about anything, much less television, was virtually nonexistent. If you missed that week’s broadcast, you missed it and that was about all there was to it.

Now, though, we have nearly unlimited ways to watch our shows, but more importantly, we have nearly unlimited ways to discuss those shows. There are hundreds–thousands?–of blogs dedicated to discussing pop culture and television. Some writers make a career of it, which is what I want for my own future. Because television is not just a solitary pursuit. Television is a communal experience now. Maybe you want to watch the episode by yourself, but if you aren’t prepared to discuss what happened on last night’s Mad Men at the water cooler on Monday morning, you’re out of the loop.

Anyone who tells you that you spend too much time watching television doesn’t know what he or she is talking about. In fact, that’s part of why we all started writing on ABPW–it’s fine to just watch television, but if you have the opportunity to enrich yourself further via discussion, why not go for it? Television is one of the most important narrative elements of entertainment in the world today. Maybe it didn’t used to be, but now watching a season of television is the mental equivalent of reading a single book in a series. And let me tell you, any show that has been able to stay on the air for at least a few seasons is guaranteed to be a lot better than some of the books that are published today.

Even in its initial form, television is a collaborative effort between everyone involved, so why shouldn’t we carry that on? Just as reading a book is a theoretical dialogue between reader and writer, so is watching television a dialogue between viewer and everyone involved on the other end. Except, and this is important, there’s a third party now involved–other viewers, commentators, people who want more from the television experience than simply clicking the remote on and off at night.

I’m sure it’s a little too meta to be talking about television commentary on a television commentary blog, but it’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to this week. In the end, discussing television isn’t shouting into the void. It’s an exchange of ideas and theories with likeminded people, building relationships over the shared experience, discovering what it is in shows about humanity that creates connection in the real world. So many shows are, at heart, about the characters and relationships more than they are about the plot and concept. Really, we’re doing a vast disservice to these shows if we don’t talk about them, find new connections, find more meaning with others than we initially did alone. Isn’t that the point? Television is about community, not just zoning out at night. This sense of community is why we rush home to catch new episodes as they air, so we’re up to date when we next see our fellow viewers.

Because, really, television isn’t about the characters we see on screen. Television is about you and me, about our connection, about how we see the world, about how placing our empathies with fictional characters can bring us to new realizations. Even in the fictional, we’re brought to those undeniable truths. Television isn’t about the two parties of output and input–now, we have output, input, and the transcendent layer of discussion.


About Bailey

I'm a writer and a feminist. I read a lot of books and I watch a lot of television.

2 Responses to “The Social ‘Net Works: Television as Discussion Vehicle”

  1. I completely agree with your assessment. As someone who has a degree in Film Studies, I have done a lot of deep think and had many discussions about how pop culture unifies us. I have always thought that television is a great equalizer since everyone has access to it and no matter what your background is or your level of education everyone finds things to relate to eachother in TV shows.

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