The Good, the Bad and the MTV

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It’s the end of term and I feel like I’ve worked (quite) hard. More than anything I’m looking forward to going home and relaxing over Christmas; my form of relaxation over Christmas includes eating coma-inducing amounts of food, having a drink before it’s socially acceptable and watching bad, bad TV.

I love bad TV: America’s Next Top Model, Project Runway, anything on MTV- they are my extremely guilty pleasure, the kind of guilty pleasure that creates a vague sense of nausea after, that can only be dissolved by another round of brain numbing entertainment. Vapid girls prancing around in front of botoxed judges telling them modelling is one of the hardest jobs in the world? Yes please. More American accents dressing more vapid girls whilst telling us how fashion designer is going to save the world, one hemline at a time. Oh, yes. Anything on MTV? Clear my spot on the sofa, it’s going to be a long night.

I could pretend that I love bad TV because it’s a damning indictment of the failings of modern day society, or because it’s an ironic comment on the detriments of consumerism or a wry, satiric look at the deteriorating Western society. It’s not though, and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t BS my way through one of those arguments for any longer than an episode of Cribs.

I love bad TV because I know it’s bad. It’s not trying to teach me anything (except, perhaps how to claw your fifteen minutes of fame out of a weak concept for a reality TV show) and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Bad TV is the anti-Oxford, and for six weeks of the holiday it is the antidote to lectures, essay crises, and that feeling that if you read one more thing, just one more, your brain might just explode.

The thing is, TV has been shown not to be good for us. Research has shown, in a study of 1,345 children, that three hours of TV a day made children 30% more likely to attention deficit disorder. Another study showed that young children who watch too much television have impaired language development but that children aged two to five may benefit from good-quality educational TV, enhanced when programmes are watched and discussed with an adult, according to researcher Dr Robin Close, for the National Literacy Trust. Children who watch a lot of TV, particularly of the type intended for adults, show markedly slower development. Of course, the effect will be very different for adults- but this is clearly meant to tell us something: good TV is good, bad TV is very, very, bad for you.

It is embarrassing to watch bad TV. That’s why I don’t indulge myself during term time, after being hunched over my laptop, headphones in, loading the latest episode of Trinity when I was definitely in the middle of a much publicised essay disaster. I tell my mum that there’s nothing else on and she gives me a suspicious look that says when I’m home suddenly the quality of TV seems to plummet dramatically.

I know that bad programming, the type of which I am such a fan, is leading to the dumbing down of the population, the deficit of thought and the corrosion of culture and that, despite the emergence of the internet, it is still untouchable as the prime source of our entertainment. I know, I know- I study English, I shouldn’t even have a TV in the house and if, shock horror, I do then I should be using it as the media for some sort of modern art installation commenting on, say, the failings of modern society. TV is a passive media, it requires no interaction (unless of course you want to be charged 50p for a life changing vote on X Factor…), you can only change channels or turn it off. I know I should do the latter, but I still don’t. Passivity is far easier- perhaps in the world of choice, I am simply exercising my right not to choose.

I watch bad TV because in a horrible, smug way, I can pretend to myself that I am impervious to it- maybe even slightly above it- because I know it’s bad TV. I don’t take it seriously. But, if we’re honest, that’s no excuse, really, is it? It’s probably not even really true. Maybe, I have to admit that I am just a completely average, MTV generation girl, as described in some far of market research survey somewhere- and that some TV mogul sitting a hundred floors up, in a penthouse office, knows exactly what I want to watch.

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