tv don’t get no respect

18 May

jarvis cocker, formerly of pulp, now singing solo; a celebrity crush i had the pleasure of meeting by accident.

i had my first “celebrity crush” on an english gentleman. it was christopher timothy, playing the role of kindly veterinarian james herriot in the bbc programme all creatures great and small. (i was 3.)

all artists are vessels, a medium through which creativity is expressed. the end result depends only on the artist’s particular craft. what begins life as an idea is filtered through the artist and emerges as something concrete: a sculpture, a sketch, a script, a song, a performance. whilst i have a deep and abiding respect and appreciation for most artistic endeavours, my greatest source of passion and inspiration has always been music. but i also harbour a great affection for what my dad called the idiot box. television may be the least respected “art”, or at least the most underrated. in terms of moving pictures, films get all the glory. the most respected and revered figures in the entertainment industry are the filmstars and directors, generally speaking. movies are big, even when they’re small: they tackle their subject matter in a sweeping manner, head-on. and many are indeed inspirational and deserving of the high praise they receive. but what about the humble television?

television is the common man to film’s high roller; even in the poorest of nations, you see that where there’s electricity, there’s a tv set. television is the long-term relationship to film’s one-night-stand; a movie lasts a mere 2 hours or so, whereas a tv series is a long-term commitment. television is like the persistent lover trying to win the heart of someone playing hard-to-get: it just keeps coming back, week after week. if you’re a regular viewer of a tv series, you’ve committed to spending quite a bit of time with that program – half an hour to an hour each week, for 10, 13, 20, 24 weeks. and each time, you’re inviting a cast of characters into your home. you witness each character’s growth and development slowly over time. you meet with these people in your kitchen, your living room, your bedroom. television is intensely personal.

what is one of the first things mentioned when we reminisce about childhood? the tv shows we watched. i grew up with the cosby family; with the keaton family; with sam, diane, woody and norm; with dorothy, blanche, rose and sophia. (not to mention bert and ernie; mister rogers; inspector gadget; he-man and she-ra; alvin, simon and theodore… i could go on and on.) later, in my teenage years, i discovered the classic britcoms of the 70s and 80s, from monty python’s flying circus to my still-favourite television series, are you being served. the catchphrases of these various characters still worm their way into my daily conversation, and plot lines are burned into my memory even decades after having experienced them. tv is seen as less glamorous than movies, more mundane, simply a part of the background. but this persistence pays off, in that we are all shaped by what we watch.

so although my first “love” is music, i’m not at all surprised that my first crush was on a character on a tv show. these characters pay us regular visits, and become a part of our lives, even if only for an hour a week. and that serves an important purpose – even when you’re just 3.


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