Sunday, December 12, 2010

Confessions of a TV-holic

I am a TV-holic. When I was a kid, my mother used to ask me what was on TV because I was the  TV Guy, her own personal  TV Guide, as it were. I knew the day and time of sitcoms and whiled away my youth on such fare as Hogan's Hero, Gilligan's Island and MASH. Around the 80s, I began to actually take academics seriously in college and coincidentally my viewing habits changed. No, I did not give up the boob tube for books, but I watched fewer sitcoms and took an interest in dramas.
But I didn't watch just any drama. I didn't watch too many police stories. Nor did I watch overly melodramatic programs. The dramas i watched had to have a "serious" theme, but it also had to have an element of the light-hearted, often witty, and occasionally funny, as represented in such favorites as Moonlighting, Hill Street Blues, LA Law and, of course, ST:TNG.

Then I moved to Japan to do my dissertation research. I ended up living there for almost seven years and during my time there, I watched my share of TV. The doramas in Japan were exactly to my liking. They touched on themes of everyday life with a touch of light-heartedness and seriousness. A dorama like "The 101st Marriage Proposal" was classic: a man who can't seem to get married because he is not the best looking guy, but eventually finds the right girl and wins her over with a sense sincerity and a touch of desperation. I also appreciated how dorama were aired. They are season long mini-series, each dorama runing about nine to twelve episodes over a three month period. Once the dorama's over, it's over. There are no cliff hangers that keep viewers in suspense for months, like the "Who Shot JR" fiasco of Dallas.

When I returned to the States in 1996, I was lost. Programming had changed so much that I felt like a foreigner. The Fox Network? Reality TV? There were, of course, some gems: The X Files and Law and Order. But by the 2000s, the X Files had run its course and Law and Order was getting old. The only show worth watching was CSI... How I longed for Japanese dorama.

Then my students led me to some sites that offered dorama online. Oh-My-God... I was in heaven. I watched everything from the silly--Gokusen--to the sublime--Nodame Cantible (okay, it was sublime to me). I found myself watching four, five, even seven titles a week. That's a lot of TV viewing. Then in the mid-2000s, I discovered that cable TV was also producing quality dramas: Battlestar Galactica, Mad Men, Burn Notice. These just add to the total number of hours I already spend on J-dorama.

So what does this all mean? I need to change. I have justified my J-dorama viewing habits by insisting that I learn Japanese. And I do. No, really. I keep a notebook next to the TV and jot down vocabulary I don't know, and there is now quite a list. Still, I'm not sure if that is enough to justify the hours in front of the tube. Indeed, I feel I was much more productive sitting in front of my computer, pounding out daily post on this blog, which I did from about 2003-06. I believe that all that writing--even the rather inane details of my life--allowed me to develop a style and an ability to structure a piece more effectively and efficiently. So maybe it's time to escape from the wasteland of TV and return to the blog... my blog.