I used to really like TV. In fact, for the majority of my life, I was a television addict. It began in the late 70s and early 80s when I was a “latchkey” kid, and spans way back to memories of “Bonanza” and “Good Times,” and throughout the 80s and 90s to the iconic “Cosby Show.” In my college years I used to relish the times when all of the girls in my dorm would get together to watch “A Different World” and “The Wonder Years.” We would cross our fingers and try to will Kevin to finally confess his feelings to Winnie through the TV screen. When I think back on those times now, I remember how that communal part of watching TV together with my family when I was a kid, or with friends as a single adult, really added an element of fun to the television experience.
I didn’t think that addiction would amount to anything, until I fixed my sights on writing for television as a career. I was able to turn my fascination with dissecting the characters, voices and storylines of shows like “Third Rock from the Sun” into hearing those voices in my head and letting them guide my own thought process while writing spec scripts, which I used as samples to ultimately land jobs on real life television shows including “Sister, Sister” staring Tia and Tamera Mowry. I couldn’t believe my luck– I was actually able to write television shows and get paid for it! Surely, I would be a devotee of television forever, I thought back then.
But in this age of new media, my television obsession has definitely demurred, and if I do watch TV, I only watch the throwbacks on Nick at Nite, or marathons of “Law and Order.” Perhaps finding quality television has become too much work for me intellectually. I no longer watch it for sheer entertainment value – now I only seem to focus on weak storylines, how I would have written the story differently, and mostly, how the actors mostly suck. I am more emblematic of a new kind of consumer of information whose definition of true entertainment has been turned on its ear by the introduction of my new faves–the Smartphone and social media. I am truly obsessed with checking out the status updates of my friends on Facebook; getting glimpses into their lives by looking at their photos and random rants about whether or not the Hydrox cookie can compare to the Oreo (of course not), and how their son or daughter got all A’s on their report card. In fact, I find my friends’ comments about the shows they have been watching more interesting than the shows themselves, because from their editorials I tend to discern whether or not the shows are even worth my taking a sneak peak. This process, called electronic word-of-mouth marketing, is the reason why social media is so popular itself.
But last year brought new news and new hope for me with the introduction of Social TV, defined by Mashable.com as “a general term for technology that supports communication and social interaction in either the context of watching television, or related to TV content. It also includes the study of television-related social behavior, devices and networks.” The term is still pretty new to the entertainment industry and networks are still trying to figure out how to create it, although it has already been happening organically. Social users are often quick to tweet about popular programs like “True Blood” or during political debates during real-time. A planned example of this took place last year via a chat integrated live broadcast on CSPAN’s Facebook page broadcasting their coverage of the transition of power of the House of Representatives from the Democrats to Republicans this time last year. According to Mashable, “Social TV provides a space for audience members to discuss a show, while transmedia encourages content producers to create stories that move across platforms. Therefore, intermedia means that audience members and content producers engage each other between media channels, often with content from one platform affecting content from the other.” In this way Social TV brings the “water cooler moments” we used to experience when we couldn’t wait to get to work and talk to our colleagues about what happened on “The West Wing” around the proverbial water cooler.
As Social TV continues to evolve, I will check in with myself to see whether or not I am compelled to re-engage with television because of this virtual water cooler social media has created and become excited about the new schedule of shows coming down the pike.
Who knows? It could happen if social media is more and more integrated with television in a truly creative sense.
But one thing is for sure. I will always seek to be involved in the conversation.