Amerca’s TV obsession

Ask many of us what the top headlines were off the ten o’clock news and chances are few of us will know for sure. Ask us, however, what the deal is with Heidi and Lauren or McDreamy and Meredith, and now you will get an earful.

We are a pop-culture generation and one that has a life outside of our own, one that we tune into almost every night at primetime. We find ourselves engrossed by
the drama that is either a wonderfully scripted or “reality-based” show.

But what is it about these TV dramas that capture our attention far more than C-Span or Dateline? Why can more college students tell us what happened on “Heroes” rather than what’s going on in their own backyard?
The calculated primetime drama has certain elements that most of us cannot resist: Parisa and Trisha having it out on “The Real World”, the “I love you too” from George to Izzy on “Grey’s”, and not knowing just what will happen to Claire, our very own indestructible cheerleader on “Heroes”. The factor all these shows have in common is the ability to keep us watching.

Week after week we are pushing our homework aside to spend half an hour to an hour fixated on our television sets, hanging on to every word, and loathing every commercial break. I’ll admit it; last week’s season re-cap of “The Hills” instead of what I had hoped would be a new episode, had me severely disappointed. From 8 o’clock on, the away messages on Buddy Lists read like the TV Guide, my own included.

This television craze is nothing new; all throughout high school we had our favorite shows. Back then I remember “Gilmore Girls” and “The O.C.” being in my top ten, though we didn’t always have the time to watch every week. With college came more free-time and the religious following of a new favorite show.

This season alone brought some highly anticipated new shows like CW’s “Gossip Girl” and ABC’s “Pushing Daisies”, and of course the return of old favorites like MTV’s “The Hills” and NBC’s “The Office”. There is no lack of good programming and every night we can see just why TiVo was invented as networks battle it out for ratings.

With the newfound freedom of not having mom or dad tell us to finish up our homework, we are allowed the privilege of procrastination and can tune into the fantasy world of primetime TV.

What really hooks us to these shows is the melodramatic tone they all possess. We’d rather watch two best friends fight in the middle of a club than have it be our reality; likewise we love to be in suspense, to be moved, and to connect to something that is separate from ourselves.
Television, especially this new crop of television, gives us just that: a world of characters that we connect with just as we would with our favorite book or even our closest friends.

No one can honestly say that they haven’t laughed hysterically when Dwight did something ridiculous on “The Office” or maybe even cried their eyes out during the season premiere of “Grey’s Anatomy” when Cristina realized Burke was really gone. We connect with these characters as we let them into our lives once a week for half an hour or more at night, many times while we’re alone and looking to escape the world of term papers and lectures.

It is precisely because of this connection that college students will know more about their favorite show than what just transpired in the world of politics. We can relate better to the highs and lows of a make-believe drama or comedy than we can or want to about something that’s actually happening. A lot of us turn to television to escape the real drama of the world and pleasure ourselves with a more glamorous version. War doesn’t seem to exist on many of our shows yet it exists when the show is over and we come back into reality.

The reason these shows register so well with us is perhaps because they are easier to accept than what’s actually going on.

Right now it’s just nicer to discuss with someone what’s going on in the pretend world of Meredith Grey than it is to have a serious conversation about the real world and all its complexity.