Television viewing has seemingly become repetitive over the years. I often find myself watching television programs containing close to similar story plots, with no sense of reality. Their only difference being the characters that partake in these television series.
Growing up in the 90’s I became accustomed to what I then believed to be fresh and/or original television series that very closely described real life topics. Issues on these sitcoms ranged from family troubles, to life lessons and even learning life morals. Throughout the years it seems that television programming has lost touch with what family or even real happiness means (granted family and happiness can have very different definitions for all.)
With television networks expanding, viewers now are less restricted on what shows even channels they choose to watch. In other words, many more channels have been added to cable and even local television stations that we are now given endless amounts of options to choose from. I argue that if television viewers are privileged enough to have multiple channels to choose from, why then is programming lacking intellectuality and originality compared to what it used to be; to clearly state my opinion on the issue I use a variety of television shows throughout my blog to explain the lack of real life issue integration (intellectuality) along with the loss of originality.
It’s safe to assume that we’ve all watched at least one episode of Boy Meets World. For those who haven’t I am terribly sorry you are missing out on one of the best shows of the 90’s! The short version of BMW begins with a young boy experiencing life at a very young age along with his family (The Matthews), friends (Shawn and Topanga), and their next-door neighbor (Mr. Feeney!) All episodes of the series deal with a lesson being learned at the end of the program (most of the time it is Cory.) The plots of the episodes all deal with variations of cheating, lying, and family problems. Season 2 episode 23, deals with family. The Matthews family takes Shawn (Cory’s best friend) in after his father leaves; upon feeling like he is only in the way he chooses to sneak out. He is then given a lecture about getting his shit together by Mr. Turner whose house he has snuck off to.
LIke BMW, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air dealt with many life lessons. These lessons included Will moving to Bel-Air to experience a better life, but also discussed issues of pregnancy and other important life things. (You get the picture.)
Between these two television series, family and life elements were very well summarized. Not all families are perfect and the fact that television was presenting that to kids was important growing up. Children were not only learning that families are meant to have disagreements but also that they could resolve their issues. The Matthews were a perfect representation of the ideal working middle class family. Both parents were hard working, while maintaining stable relationships with their children. Morals were well taught growing up and children worked for rewards. Season 2 episode 3 of the FPBA, Will is advised to get a job if he plans on going to the prom. Items and money were not just handed to children on these shows, rather they were taught to earn things for themselves.
Steven Winzenburg states that TV reality can be described through two types; “experiential or perceived, in which viewers can then choose to relate to the reality or reject the reality by distancing themselves from it.” Winzeburg’s definitions bring up my next point..
The 2000’s really brought in what started the beginning of reality TV programs. Series slowly began to lose touch with good life based qualities that we had grown accustomed to. The idea of perceived reality makes sense with shows such as Laguna Beach, The Osbournes, even The Real Housewives series. Programs as such framed “reality” as glamour 24/7 and viewers chose to relate to that lifestyle, while others assumingly chose to view it as a world not experienced by them but ultimately what was “real life.” Shows such as Teen Mom and Sixteen & Pregnant, show dysfunction within family life.
Over the years television viewing has changed. I can sit here and complain about how ‘terrible’ the shows on the air seem to be, but that will not fix the problems (or what I see as problems.) The reality of the situation is this; programs are lacking the incorporation of real life concepts and most shows have also lost their originality. We are frequently running into what Paul O’Grady refers to as “copycat cookery,” New ideas are not being implemented, which can be part of why shows like BMW and the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air are no longer being made. Rather when reality television hit the scene, we became hooked to following the lives of people who we thought were interesting. Networks such as Bravo, TLC, and VH1 followed each other after witnessing the success of one another. Leading to believe that this caused the industry to lose the ‘real life’ aspect and of course, the originality.
In conclusion, television series have lost both a sense of reality as well as originality. Viewers are attracted to shows that show dysfunction because we can then see our life as well put together. Viewing television through the years changing, and we adapt.
Winzeburg, Stephen Tv’s Greatest Sitcoms. Publish America, 2004
Day & Night, Paul O’Grady Complains that TV Shows Have No Originality. Express UK. 2014
“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” IMDB N.P, N.D. Web. (Season 2, episode 3)
“Boy Meets World.” IMDB N.P, N.D. Web. (Season 2, episode 23)