I avoid prime-time television as much as possible, primarily for reasons of quality. I’m amazed at the mediocrity that permeates the air-waves. Guarding against mind-sucking white noise has become easier since Karen and I stopped having cable piped in. The fact that cable television is a dinosaur, however, and that all of the content we would have watched is just as accessible to us via the Internet (yes, we do everything legally), leads to some occasional exposure to this stuff, however.
So, I maintain a list of about four to five shows that I watch weekly. I’m picky…at least I like to think so. I commented again as we sat down Friday night to watch a new episode of House, however, that there’s really nothing amazing about the plot from week to week. Sure, there’s the sub-plot of various relationships and interpersonal conflicts that carry from week to week…that’s the making of a good serial. But, ultimately, you know what’s going to happen by the end of each episode.
Another of our favorites, Bones, leads to the same conclusion. Following the relationships is somewhat unpredictable, but you always know the crime will be solved by Brennan’s amazing intellect after 45 minutes. So I’m left wondering: if my standards are as high as I like to think (I mailed a perfectly good anime film back to Netflix in disappointment the same night, after all), then why am I drawn to media that’s so glaringly light on plot?
And I’m not alone. I can think of an actor and two professors I know that are just as drawn to one of these shows or the other. So, have I digressed into the brainless desire for entertainment that afflicts most Americans? Has my artistic diet become so saturated by junk food that I no longer desire a well-prepared meal?
I don’t think so, and this is why. I didn’t go into either of these shows with the expectation of riveting plot. There are those I do go into with that expectation: Heroes, for example. What draws me to House and Bones, however, is character development. Bones’ realization of her confinement within her own genius and House’s willful succumbing to his own narcissism are irresistible storytelling. The development of their characters is played out in repetitious scenarios, which, considering their respective professions, is realistic. Truly compelling characters tend to be conspicuously absent from most of our media on most evenings of the week, and these, therefore, are a joy for me to watch from a storytelling perspective, even though overall story of the night may be overtly predictable.
Or, perhaps I really am guilty of wanting some vacuous entertainment during the course of my week.
No…I like the first explanation better.