I’ve written a lot about the books I’ve read, but I’ve never commented on my television viewing habits since they didn’t seem to relate to writing even in a general sense. It is, however, a major way in which I receive information since I don’t spend all my time on the Internet or reading.
My family had a tradition of watching television on Sunday nights. I won’t tell you the programs we watched because that would date me. I have continued that tradition with the PBS/BBC co-productions of Masterpiece Theater. It used to be that we had Mystery on Thursdays and Masterpiece on Sundays, but now we just have Mystery on Sundays and they call it Masterpiece with an occasional program not devoted to crime. I also watch Live from Lincoln Center, Charlie Rose and Rick Steves on PBS. Because of all the hype and notoriety I was curious to watch Mad Men on AMC and followed it for a couple of seasons before I lost interest in it. They were such sorry people that I just felt no sympathy for them and their troubles.
I was a long-time fan of Larry King on CNN before his producers dumbed down the show a few years ago, and I shifted to Rachel Maddow on MSNBC who is a smart Rhodes scholar. But she only covers politics so I tired of that also. With 300+ channels and 100+ in HD you would think I that I have plenty of programs to chose from. At various times I have been interested in Discovery, AMC, TCM, History, and National Geographic channels. Their programming has been highly variable with some great ones and some really boring ones. I’ve been very disappointed in Bravo and BBC/America.
So what can I recommend? If you’re interested in the field of journalism as I am, then Howard Kurtz’s weekly Sunday broadcast Reliable Sources on CNN is a must. Another Sunday CNN regular is Fareed Zakaria’s GPS that covers world affairs with live interviews of world leaders. I agree that CNN sort of splits the divide between the radical right of Fox and the liberal left of MSNBC. I usually watch the local noon news if I’m having lunch at home. I quit watching the evening news either local or national—just too many damn commercials. I don’t watch morning TV or during the day even though I grew up with the Today Show.
Although the networks and broadcast television don’t dominate the medium like they used to before the advent of cable channels, they still carry a lot of popular programming. I never was interested in sit-coms, game shows, crime or cop shows, or so-called “thrillers,” i.e. the vampire genre, or the sci-fi that rely solely on special effects so I never was very good at water-cooler conversation.
Since I’m not a screenwriter, TV was never an option professionally. I’ve read and written for magazines most of my career. But now that magazines, newspapers, and TV are coming to the iPad as well as smart phones and the WWW, the great divide between media is shrinking. It’s not only how we access media but also how we have different options of how to publish, such as iPhone apps.
There are still a few gems to be found out there in that “vast wasteland” of television.