September 22, 2013

MOSER: My Not-So-Well-Balanced TV Diet

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By JULIA MOSER

Everyone from my mother, to my friends, to my dentist tells me I watch too much TV. But today, I’m not going to talk about the television shows I do watch, I’m going to talk about those that I don’t.

It has come to my attention that there are significant gaps in the selection of television I choose to view. Although I watch every comedy under the sun (well the sun that shines on America and the UK), many critically acclaimed “must-sees” are absent from my smorgasbord of TV shows.

That list includes Homeland, the Israeli Homeland, Boardwalk Empire, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, The Wire, the rest of The Sopranos (I only made it through season two last year when I was procrastinating studying for finals and never got around to finishing,) House of Cards, Downton Abbey and, until very recently, Breaking Bad. If you live in an underground hovel, what these shows have in common is that they are all dramas.

I finally caved about three weeks ago, and decided that I needed to jump on the Breaking Bad train while it was still relevant (also to get Zachary Zahos off my back). It’s a very fast-moving, intense and emotional train. And, while I am enjoying the ride, I definitely need to get off for a while. I agree that it’s a fantastic show from all perspectives, but it’s kind of stressful for me. Bob Odenkirk’s wonderful comic relief is helpful, but too infrequent for my liking.

This weekend, I was appalled to discover that I was three episodes behind on the new season of The League, a hilarious show about a group of friends in a fantasy football league who express their fraternal love by being really mean to one another. I so enjoy the antics of Nick Kroll, Mark Duplass, Paul Scheer and the rest of the cast. Seth Rogen, Rob Heubel and Adam Brody all made comical appearances, and I was generally pleased by my television viewing experience.

My preference for comedy over drama is well-documented in this column. But my recent foray into what is possibly the most popular drama on television at the moment made me question whether or not my proclivity towards exclusively watching comedy is a good thing. Should one vary their television viewing habits like one is supposed to vary their dietary habits? Is forcing yourself to sit down and watch something that is objectively good, but challenging, like eating your vegetables?

As someone who is also not a huge fan of most vegetables (except artichokes — I really like artichokes which I think represent Mad Men in this meta-phor because it’s the only drama I am as obsessed with as my comedies), I very easily drew the comparison between my love of chicken wings, dim sum and chocolate chip cookies, to my preference for laughs. My avoidance of healthy foods has very visible consequences: crop tops are not an item of clothing in my wheelhouse. But then what are the consequences of choosing the “junk food” of the television realm?

Is my brain fat from watching The Mindy Project and Veep? Will my cognitive muscles atrophy because I don’t exercise them enough by watching things that are hard to watch?

As a history major with no medical expertise whatsoever besides having a doctor father who I have not consulted on this particular issue, I don’t have definitive answer to these questions. I’m going to take a stab and say no. It’s not like I’m exclusively watching All My Children. The shows that I watch, even though they are easy and fun, are just as well written and critically acclaimed as the fibrous dramas everyone judges me for avoiding. Dramas are not inherently better for you because they’re difficult to watch.

However, that being said, I think some diversity in what one consumes (be it film, television or food) is ultimately a good thing. After having nightmares about beheadings and the recurring sound of an ATM crushing a man’s head, I appreciated The League that much more. And the bitterness of coffee makes the chocolate-almond scone you eat it with, even better. I could make some grand philosophical statement about how this applies to life in general as well, and that you need the sad bits to make you appreciate the other ones etc … but I’m not your therapist.

I will keep watching Breaking Bad, because I do think it’s good for me switch things up. Being brought to the dark places Vince Gilligan brings me only enhances Mindy Kaling’s more cheerful revelations. There’s a slight chance I will also start House of Cards because I’m told it’s like an evil West Wing, so that’s fun. I should also probably be eating more vegetables.

Julia Moser is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at jmoser@cornellsun.com. Carrot Top Confessions runs alternate Mondays this semester.