Saturday, November 10, 2007


In general, Christians who are conservative tend to bash television as a morally bankrupt wasteland. I often get the feeling that these people don't actually watch much TV - and if they do, they seek out shows that are deliberately controversial or that revel in pushing the envelope so they can have something to complain about. The example I always cee cited is "Sex and the City." I've never actually seen an episode of the show - only clips on Awards programs. From what I've seen and read, the show is too crass and vulgar for my tastes. I stopped watching the sitcom "Two and a Half Men" because I found it to be filthy. I have no problem with funny, well-written sex jokes (the sitcom "Cheers" pulled them off well). Even Shakespeare enjoyed bawdy humor in his plays, and those are considered great literature. But there's a line. Like the traditional definition of pornography says, "I'll know it when I see it."

As a Christian with conservative leanings myself, I want to take a few minutes to defend television. It's a medium I've always found entertaining and, at times, enlightening. My tastes aren't always particularly highbrow so this will not be a post extolling the virtues of "Masterpiece Theatre" (not that there's anything wrong with that). But I enjoy mainstream broadcast television. So here are the shows on my current "watch list" and what I like about them. Feel free to add your own suggestions:

- "Heroes" and "Chuck" - both shows deal with characters who have special talents or responsibilities thrust upon them and do their best to meet these responsibilites for moral reasons.

- "30 Rock" and "The Office" - though I'm lumping these two sitcoms together because they air together, they are somewhat different. "30 Rock" is a satirical, often hilarious look at the workings of the television world. The jokes are more hit than miss, but some episodes have fallen completely flat. And sometimes they push the envelope too far like last week's scene with Pete and his wife in bed together. But when this show is on, it's hysterical. An even better and funnier workplace comedy, in my opinion, is "The Office." Its characters are also exaggerated for comedic effect, but they also integrate moments of relatability that make them seem real instead of just caricatures. For instance, there was an episode last season in which Pam (Jenna Fischer) had an art show and invited everyone from the office. The only one who showed up was her boss Michael Scott (Steve Carell) who tends to be a likable comedic dope a lot of the time. But when Michael shows up saying he wanted to support Pam's work, she's genuinely touched - and so is the audience. Integrating poignant moments into a sitcom isn't easy. The show that did it best for me is "Everybody Loves Raymond." "The Office" does a nice job of it too from time to time so that, along with the steady laughs, make this the best sitcom on TV.

- "Lost" - this complex, multi-layered island mystery engagingly deals with themes like human nature, relationships, philosophy, faith, and sacrifice. It also contained the best priest-character in Mr. Eko that television has seen in a long time. I'm guessing that the fact that executive producer Carlton Cuse is a practicing Catholic has some impact on this show's mature treatment of spiritual themes.

- "Pushing Daisies" - this whimsical, funny, sweet detective show offers great stories and performances. See other posts for my full opinion.

- "Battlestar Galactica" - probably the best-written show on television today. It addresses modern issues like politics, war, and faith in a sci-fi setting that may turn some people off. But it's their loss. They should put aside their pre-conceived notions about sci-fi and give this show a look on DVD.

- "American Idol" - this show probably has more Christians on stage every week than any other. By my count, 6 of last season's top 12 were Christian. I know it's fashionable to look down on "Idol." It subjects us to 4 weeks of horrible singers at the start of the season, while others complain that none of these contestants are "real" singers. Well, Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood could argue that last point. But ultimately, this is a talent show. It's not a new concept, just one that's been repackaged for a modern audience. It does what it does incredibly well and deserves the success it's had.

- "Dancing with the Stars" - the most purely entertaining show on television. When it first started, I thought the concept sounded totally cheesy. I only watched because I had taken ballroom dancing lessons on-and-off for a couple of years and knew how much fun it could be. But would that fun translate into an enjoyable TV show? Absolutely! When couples dance well, there's a sense of joy and electricity that ignites the live audience and comes through the screen. There's also an amazing amount of stamina and athleticism involved in performing these routines that make them fun to watch. Maybe DWTS is a little cheesy, but it always makes me smile - and that's enough to keep me coming back week after week.

So there's my take on television. I also enjoy books, films and music. But since TV is often seen as the bastard stepchild of "the arts," I wanted to offer a different take. Feel free to add your own.

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