“I don’t watch TV,” a woman said to me not long ago, a self-righteous tone in her voice. “Except Downton Abbey.” Wow. I didn’t know how to respond to this, other than a feeble, “I watch TV.” Of course, that got me wondering, why do people think that reading books is so much better for you than watching a show on television? And if you do watch TV, why is Masterpiece Classic the only acceptable format?
Here’s how I feel: a good story is a good story, no matter the medium. I’ve read terrible books and I’ve watched fantastic television series. It doesn’t matter to me how the story is conveyed; what is important to me is the story itself.
In the past month I’ve started three novels, all of which got good reviews, only to put them down because they did not engage me. In this same month I finally started watching Breaking Bad, which has me so engaged I feel like I need to watch it EVERYDAY. I’m watching Avatar: The Last Airbender for the third time because it’s such a fabulous story.
From a writer’s perspective, Breaking Bad has taught me a great deal about pacing and character development. Avatar has also taught me about character development and using parallels. I can get that from books too, of course, but I’m not about to rule out good storytelling just because the medium is often considered low-brow.
And let’s not forget about all the “classic” novels that were once considered low-brow, but are now in our canon of “great literature.” The novels of Charles Dickens and Mark Twain would have been spoken about in the same tone of voice that some use for TV. They were considered uncouth and undignified. Look at them now, read in literature classes everywhere!
I love a good story. I don’t care if it comes from books, movies, comic books, songs, a youtube video, or your eight year old son regaling me about his day. And I certainly don’t care if it comes from television. Yes, I watch TV.