Friday, May 27, 2011

Why I need to watch more television

Popular culture is in a way like food. We consume it on a daily basis and often we need an understanding of it, at some level, in order to carry on conversations with our peers, colleagues, friends and random people we meet. We don’t necessarily have to consume an inordinate amount, but we must eat a little for fear of being left out of the conversation. These days, I feel a little left out!

During my childhood and teenage years, there were specific television programs I eagerly anticipated all week long, shows that were special events on certain nights of the week. Like most children/teens in Canada, I spent a fair amount of time propped up in front of the ole boob tube.

As I got older and moved on to university, I found that I was spending more time away from home or at least a television. Instead of watching TV, I was socializing with friends at coffee shops and later bars. We would sit around and listen to music and talk as opposed to watching television.

In my early twenties, post-university, I became a college student, studying 3D graphics and design. I spent every free moment I had creating 3D models and learning about game development. There was no time or even interest in watching television (Aside from season one of “Survivor” which I loved!).

Post-college life involved me working very long hours at a game development studio. I worked a lot and did freelance 3D design on the side. I did have some time for television, but by that time had become a full-fledged tech geek! My roommate had a satellite dish and we would spend evenings, when not working, drinking beer and watching Tech TV (I loved the show “The Screen Savers”.).



Soon after that I found myself living in South Korea, working as an English teacher. I had cable television, but most channels were of course Korean. I did however start watching more television again. I didn’t have a computer during my first year in Korea so had little Internet access (after years as a tech-gek I was purposely going “anti-tech”). I would watch AFN (American Forces Network) a television channel run by the American military for U.S. service personnel in Korea. I was able to watch American sitcoms (Fraiser seemed to be on at least three times a night, seven nights a week) and shows like David Letterman. It was sort of refreshing.

Soon enough I was busier and busier at night with my social life, Tae Kwon Do classes and travel that I would rarely watch TV. That continued for the rest of my time in Korea.

I made the move back to Canada and then to Japan with my wife. By the time I was in Japan I was a full-fledged, hard-core You Tube video blogger. I ate, breathed and lived You Tube. I was having so much fun making videos, watching others’ videos and communicating with the hundreds of people emailing me and commenting on my videos. I simply had no time for watching Canadian/American or any other television! When I got home from work or had any free time, I was plunked down in front of You Tube. I really loved it, but I wasn’t consuming the culture that so many others were.

I started to notice over time that I was missing certain cultural references. I am a massive fan of the daily radio show from Canada called Q. It is a culture and arts show. Often they would make references to shows such as Mad Men, Dexter, or 30 Rock and I had never seen any of these shows.

Although I’ve never been a big television viewer, missing these cultural references is a little troubling for me. I realize that I don’t want to consume too much pop culture that way, but some would be good for me I think. By consuming a modest amount of popular culture from Canada or America I would at least feel a little more included in some conversations. I would feel a little more “with it” I suppose.

Now on the other hand, I think it is a healthy thing that I’ve never been faced with an episode of Jersey Shore or some of the crappier fare, pop culture has to offer back home. I honestly can’t afford to lose any more brain cells, the kind that might face extinction by having too much reality TV pointed in their direction.

When people ask me, “Do you watch TV?” I can honestly say “No.” Do I say that because I am a cultural elitist? There’s not chance of me ever being that! I am pretty damn blue-collar when it comes to most things. I’ll take a cold beer in a pub any day over a glass of wine in a fine restaurant. I am a meat and potatoes guy in the true sense of the term. I haven’t watched TV for years because I have been doing other things. Now, I can honestly sit back and say that I would like to watch some television. I would like to at least know a little more about contemporary pop culture.

The irony is that I have been so wired into social media for the past few years that you would think I would know more about the cultural landscape than many. I find myself in quite the opposite position though.

Time to watch some TV.

I need to eat a little more pop culture!


You can follow more of my thoughts on TWITTER: @jlandkev (Japan-Land Kevin)

10 comments:

jenninjapan said...

Very interesting take on things. It's true that so much of our conversations are driven but cultural references... so much so that they almost become inside jokes, leaving one out and lonely if unfamiliar with the context. Strange how media can dictate our social lives haha.
I've never been much of a TV watcher until I came to Japan. I didn't own a TV after I left home and moved to my university town. That became 6 years of my life.
Now that I'm here, particularly in such a small, isolated little town (unless I'm in Sapporo on the weekends), I'm desperate for English shows.
As for what you've mentioned, I think MadMen, Dexter, and 30 Rock are brilliant. You may very much like them! Happy watching.

Hiko said...

Between Sky Perfectv and a foreign iTunes account, I think it is possible to keep up with pretty much everything going on on US TV nowadays, and no plenty of people who find this makes their immersion more difficult when they are in Japan. I have SkyPerfectv and regret that as a result, outside of the NHK news, I really don't watch many regular shows on Japanese TV any more, and also often find myself thinking that I need to watch more local tv to stay in touch.

I liked your different take on the matter, sir!

Peace

Peter Martin said...

I stopped watching television around 2000. I can't say I miss it, and not being up on its cultural references doesn't bother me. My computer is centrally located so it sort of takes the place. I've found a lot of people have TV on almost 24/7 just for the background noise; the computer serves the same purpose for me with podcasts, etc.

One interesting thing I've noticed is that my world view has changed considerably since I am no longer subject to the mainstream media. When I do see television, I am struck at how biased US news is with an us-against-them mentality between all the political pundits.

Somewhat related, you may find the following interesting, and the embedded video is both hilarious and spot-on IMO.

http://board.gnurl.net/clinchwood/index.php?id=113

Turner said...

Sidereel, dude. It's how I keep up to date. Daily Show streams, as well.

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