I’m a lazy person. Shocking for a guy who writes about television, right? Even for an avid screen-gazer, I’m pretty dang lethargic. Not necessarily physically — though no one would confuse me for an actual active person, either — but in terms of my viewing habits. In my last column, I wrote about my enduring appreciation for COPS. I dressed up my explanation-slash-defense in a bunch of fancy language, but the truth is this: I like COPS because it’s easy as shit to watch. And frankly, that description fits about 80 percent of the shows I watch regularly.
Oh sure, I consume “challenging” entertaiment, too (well, “challenging” in the relative sense). I watch long-form dramas with multiple character arcs, layered sitcoms and the occasional PBS documentary. But if there’s a film about cinematographer Gordon Willis on one channel and a compilation of wild police chases on the other, there’re going to be some difficult choices to make in my future.
In other words, I’m a junk TV addict. I prefer “aficionado,” but that’s probably not what general society would call me. And I don’t feel the least bit ashamed about it.
A good friend of mine often says he doesn’t believe in so-called “guilty pleasures.” He usually states this in the context of pop music. No one else in this hemisphere simultaneously appreciates Pavement and Katy Perry to the degree he does. I feel the same way about television. Those of us who actively scan the cable guide for episodes of 1,000 Ways to Die and 16 and Pregnant needn’t cower in the shadows. It’s said we are currently in a golden age of TV, what with Mad Men and Breaking Bad and basically anything on HBO that isn’t Hung, and that’s great. It’s still called the idiot box, though. And there’s nothing wrong with flipping the thing on and getting stupid.
Seriously, all the shows regularly maligned as symbols of America’s decaying sense of decency, I will gladly turn on and expose myself to. Cheaters? Sure. Gigolos? You bet. American Ninja Warrior? All eight hours of it. Even something with the Kardashians? Yep, especially Khloe and Lamar. Anything related to The Real World and/or Road Rules? Especially anything related to The Real World and/or Road Rules. Mind you, I’m not emotionally invested in any of these shows, but that’s what makes them perfect. As someone weaned on Mystery Science Theater 3000, the act of consciously absorbing a piece of garbage, then fully processing it through my brain and out my mouth in a stream of snark is a uniquely satisfying and, yes, addicting experience. There is probably another full essay that could be written about what MST3K did to a generation that can no longer tell the difference between irony and sincerity, but I’ll have to save that for another column. I’m just not in the mood for writing it right now.
I Need Media is a biweekly media column. Matthew Singer watches everything from PBS documentaries to Community and Showtime’s Gigolos, but mostly he’s just filling the void until Breaking Bad starts again. Follow him on Twitter @mpsinger.