Honestly, I think that TV is a lot better than people are willing to admit. On the whole, I think TV is better than film right now.  And I think the best of television is better than the average stream of series books. I think that the best TV series don’t quite come up the the quality of the best novels written, of course. I’ll take Dickens of David Milch, for example — (but I’d put the Sopranos above The Godfather films– blasphemy!)  I really learn a lot about story from watching television. I appreciate the work that goes into creating solutions to devilish production problems, for example. (An actor quits, say, or a story arc turns out to be a dead end). Since TV series, unlike novels (but not unlike Victorian serials — current crime and fantasy novel series books) are put before the public before the entire work is complete, watching a show progress (or decline) is like watching a long work being drafted. In a novel, if we write ourselves into a corner, we can back up, revise, etc, but in a modern TV you’re stuck and have to get inventive.
They didn’t used to do this. Remember in the original Star Trek when Kirk stole the cloaking device from the Romulans? How infuriating that they never used it in subsequent episodes!
An audience today would never stand for that big a plot hole. I’m told that in one of the later series they DID come up with an explanation — that the Federation signed a treaty agreeing not to develope or use the technology.

There’s some things only a book can do right (thank god!) But I’m no longer in the camp of "TV and movies are death to the prose writer."
I think a serious artist (blech! — make that "sincere craftsperson) can and should take influence from the other forms that make up the zeitgeist. If a painter uses comics, or advertising as an influence, they are considered a great deconstructionist, but if a writer were to admit being influence by TV they’d be facing a stern nose-down-looking-upon, or something.
Honestly, when I watched Deadwood for the first time I thought — holy shit! I gotta raise my game! I think the common idea of novels in competition with other medium is that novels are declining because TV and games are easier — flashier, sexier, more violent. All of that is true, but it’s a cop-out. Deadwood and others never ever condescend to the audience. I’ve seen the first series 3 times and found new things each time.
There is zero exposition, but the reader/viewer is only lost to the extent that we are all lost most of the time. (Actually not quite that lost). It’s interesting (exp C. Doctorow) that  new SF  is very accessible to a mainstream audience. The standard SF story uses the standard tropes and minimizes exposition that way. The SF that today seems to reach an audience (think of Doctorow’s fiction on Salon, or Gibson’s SF novel that is mainstream in name only merely because it employs no extrapolation) seeks out our shared experiences and uses them as the tropes.


One thought on “TV

  1. Ray Dotson says:

    I just discovered your blog linked by Toby Buckell (whom I discovered through Steve Leigh). It’s interesting that you mention tv not being so bad. the overwhelming majority of it is clearly crap, but there are some shows that do stand out. Something that’s funny is that I’m noticing that some of my children’s cartoons actually have some depth to their plots and characters who have realistic inner conflicts. It’s amazing when I can watch one of these and say, “Wow. That was a good story.”

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