In years past, I have been very guilty of a certain kind of addiction: watching bad TV shows. When I mean "bad," I mean shows that are cornball, shallow, cheesy and very easy to poke fun of. I'm talking Days of Our Lives, Joe Millionaire, American Idol, WWF Wrestling and others. These days, there are several reasons why I only watch one certain television program on a regular basis.
Sometime ago while my sister was home from college, she suggested I check out NBC's long-running daytime soap opera, Days of Our Lives. She didn't suggest it to me because it was an emotionally engaging show - she suggested it because it was so silly. Hammy melodrama and absurd plotlines are prime for ridicule and ridicule them I did. However, I got addicted to the show. Whether it was Marlena being possessed by the Devil or Austin being caught in a love triangle between Sami and Carrie, I really got into the show. I knew fully-well that I was watching a silly show, but I couldn't stop watching it.
With American Idol and its knockoffs (Fame, the WB's Superstar USA, Nashville Star and so on), audiences watch in droves and pretend to care about the performers. For me, I never can fully get behind people that show up to a cattle call, enter a spruced-up karaoke contest and think they get a legitimate singing career out of the deal. However, it's really easy for me to take the piss out the people when they do a lousy performance and/or get voted off the show. I had no sympathy for these wannabe performers as people. Instead, I was addicted to the unpredictable nature of a live show. Plus, I was curious as to how well or how poorly these people could sing familiar songs. I don't know if I felt better about myself whether something was sung well or poorly. All I know is that I could really care less about happened to these people once the season was over.
These days, I often find myself with a lot of free time at home. I could watch a lot of TV if I really wanted to, but I don't. I haven't had cable installed in my living quarters for three years and I don't really miss it. So, it's been free broadcasting via rabbit-ear antennas for me. If I do turn on my TV, it's to watch a DVD or a tape (except for Wednesday nights at 8pm on ABC). When I'm not in front of my TV, I'm often in front of my computer, sitting in my recliner reading a book or a magazine or taking a walk. I fill up my free time with stuff that gives me something back mentally. I think this is good and I'm very wary of getting hooked again onto bad TV shows.
I will admit: I have recently sneaked a peak at some really obnoxious cornball shows. Thankfully I haven't become addicted to them. MTV's There & Back is a favorite of ridicule by a blog of I often read, Reality Blurred. Each week, a new wrap-up details this week's episode on Ashley Parker Angel's quest for the "good life" as a singer-songwriter and family man. Angel comes across as a trainwreck of insecurity and stupidity and this is all documented in each wrap-up. With the amount of time I save by reading a wrap-up each week, I don't have to waste my time with actually watching the show. I'm mildly curious as to what happened on each episode, but I don't revolve around it. In the end, I don't care about how Angel will end up by the end of the season - I just laugh at the absurdities of his actions and attitudes.
Maybe I'm falling into line with how these shows attract audiences. Give them something to watch, but it's not going to make them think really hard or really care about that much. Maybe that's the goal of entertaining people in general, but I've stated over and over before here, I can't turn my brain off with this stuff. Sure, it's fun to poke holes into bad TV show, but ultimately, I'd much rather be writing, reading or watching something that speaks to me on a deeper level.