Where have all the (TV) flowers gone?

Last night my husband and I sat down to watch television and he listed the options: Boardwalk Empire, The Borgias, Breaking Bad, DaVinci, Orange is the New Black, House of Cards,Scandal, Dexter, Homeland. I could go on, but you get the dark picture.

“I just can’t do it anymore,” I said. “We have to lose at least half these titles.”

“What?” he replied, stunned. “This is all excellent TV!”

Individually, he has a point. (And I would never give up Homeland or Scandal.)  But in aggregate, the violence, torture, untimely and unnecessary death, graphic sex, twisted motives and degenerate language is digging a big black hole in the creative universe.  And I’m falling in. Watching the same archetypal losers prance around in different costumes, countries, and centuries is seriously degrading my hope in humanity.  I can’t be the only one.

Just to be clear, as a writer, I’m all for tension and conflict.  And I realize that tension relies on duality and opposing forces. We can’t do without it. But what happened to subtlety, subtext, and a struggling conscience?  Is murder and espionage (and more murder) and crystal meth and vapid sex (and suicide) and ruthless political ambition (and way more murder) the only subjects that attract and keep our collective attention anymore? Or are we so addicted that we simply recline as they administer the opiate? And just a suggestion—why not let the good guys (if you can find any) catch a break once in a dynasty.  Good guys have a lot to teach us, too.  I’m not talking about eliminating the dark side, believe me, how else would we recognize the light?  But why is it so difficult to sell a scenario or two in which the good side has more than a cameo role and gets offstage without being dismembered?

Is it really necessary for writers/publishers/producers/directors, myself among them, to exhaust every avenue in every genre-du-jour before investing in something new? Following the money doesn’t always pay. Besides, it insults the imagination. For a creative industry, we sure spend an awful lot of time copying.  How long do we have to suffer through vampires, goblins, zombies, and mass murderers before an angelic force is more than haze on the horizon?

A better question: isn’t there room for both?

© 2013 Rea Nolan Martin
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