Television is so 1995
Rob Peters | March 28, 2008 at 10:05 amby
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The buzz around last week’s YouTube awards demonstrates how much video has changed the past few years.
Not only did an online army blog the results, as you would expect, but major news wires and TV broadcasts also picked up the story.
My parents, both in their 60s, knew about the now-famous laughing baby video before I did, and neither of them can name a single Emmy winner. Those funny little videos people send around at work are suddenly a big deal.
Needless to say, how we watch video and television has changed dramatically.
For starters, there really is no need to buy a TV anymore. The iMac I bought last week has a large LCD screen and a remote, and TV shows are available online almost immediately after they’re aired.
TV newscasts may still be a draw for some, however, but if you don’t miss the big hair and power suits of TV news anchors, online news sources are a dime a dozen—and more up to date.
We can watch TV wherever and whenever we want. Laptops, iPods, and portable DVD players have made the boobtube less booby and more suitable for an active lifestyle.
But as big as these changes are in how we’re watching, the bigger shift is in what we’re watching. Shockingly, there’s a lot of smart TV available.
Remember when Cheers was the best sitcom on TV? And remember how Cheers contained about as much wit as a fencepost?
In large part thanks to companies like HBO, shows like Six Feet Under, The Wire, Arrested Development, and Curb Your Enthusiasm have raised the smartness bar for TV series. A lot of it is still as vapid as the old stuff, mind you, but it’s cleverly vapid, and that’s an improvement.
With all this choice, we’re no longer at the mercy of the big networks. Greater democracy has revealed tastes for smarter, edgier TV shows, and grassroots stuff like YouTube. A baby laughing his head off isn’t earth-shattering, but I’d say it’s more human and worthwhile than a Friends episode.
Clips like these, while a little rough around the edges, are taking off because they don’t have that sanitized veneer of corporate gloss. Consequently we’re experiencing a surge of “underground” TV, abetted by new technology.
The one thing that hasn’t changed, I believe, is why we watch. Life is difficult, and an escape after work is welcome. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
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