TV Critic: Entertainment Programming Does Not Exactly Resemble Real Life

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Dec. 3 2010 1:51 PM

TV Critic: Entertainment Programming Does Not Exactly Resemble Real Life

Is there anyone at the New York Times less familar with how television works than


is? Maybe the television critic! Today, Alessandra Stanley is having thoughts about the

, as practiced by the people inside her TV set.

People booze it up more wantonly on television than ever before, but there is an element of denial in even the most extreme depictions. In real life drinking is fun until it’s not. Most television shows can’t deal with that kind of contradiction. Alcohol is depicted as either fun, as in the red wine fests on the ABC sitcom "Cougar Town," or it’s a life-destroying scourge that requires drastic measures, as on "Intervention" on A&E or "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew," which returned last week on VH1 for a fourth season. Basically, television presents a conflicted, all-or-nothing portrait that isn’t realistic so much as it is a reflection of the American love-hate relationship with liquor — all or Prohibition.

Goodness! While we're at it, why isn't there more television programming that shows a person having two beers at a party and then talking to a few people he or she wouldn't otherwise have talked to? And then they go out for another beer and some burgers and the person wants to tip 20 percent on his or her share of a $47.23 check, split three ways, but all he or she has is 20s from the ATM, and—shoot, all the other people have are 20s, too, so can the waitress—where's the waitress? Can she break a 20—no, two 20s—no, wait, one's OK, right? Three fives and five ones? Why is drinking on television so simplified and...dramatic?

Some more aspects of American culture for the television critic to consider:

• Most people are sort of boring or unremarkable in their appearance. Why are the people on television either unusually good-looking or unusually funny-looking? (Why are some of them drawings?)

• When a person says something on television, a lot of the time it's a pointed, funny quip. Other times it is something very, very intense and serious. Why does television ignore the middle range of conversation, where people sort of ramble and repeat themselves and talk about sports or the weather?

• A lot of the time on television, when one person gets angry at another person, they get in a fight, or even one of them kills the other. Why doesn't American culture make room for more ambivalent or unresolved kinds of conflict?

Please, someone, get Alessandra Stanley a screwdriver, so she can let the little people out of her TV box and interview them about this.

Tom Scocca is the managing editor of Deadspin and the author of Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future.



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