Six Hours of TelevisionIn looking at modern television programming there are hundreds of showsto choose from. Picking six hours of television to analyze from the prospectiveof an anthropologist is by no means easy.
It is easy however, to talk aboutwhat our nation looks like to others who have never been here. Everyone isgorgeous, lives happily, and overcomes all problems, but more on that later. Four hours of the programming I chose is perhaps the most popular programmingthis year, consistently topping the Nielsen ratings. For the remaining twohours of programming I decided to look at two police drama shows, one that wasbrand new this season and one not brand new, but still going strong. For the two hours of police dramas, I looked at programs with differentangles.
NYPD BLUE is the story of police detectives, and HIGH INCIDENT was anew show that looked at the view of policing from the beat. ‘ HIGH INCIDENTrepresented one of the first t. v. shows to come from the SKG works of StevenSpielberg. However, just like Spielberg’s previous AMAZING STORIES, HIGHINCIDENT has already ceased to air. This could still change though, with thenext season.
Of the remaining four hours, three are on television everyThursday night, and include the tremendously popular FRIENDS, the SINGLE GUY,the hits SEINFELD and CAROLINE IN THE CITY, and the most popular show this year,ER. For the remaining hour I choose to look at THE TONIGHT SHOW, with Jay Leno. Between these shows there are many similarities and many differences. All ofthese shows can be directly compared with each other, having some of the samequalities. Looking at these shows in the perspective of an anthropologist somedisquieting trends emerge. I will present the information as if an outsider,from another nation, were watching American shows, and believed what he/she wasseeing to be true of what goes on in America.
Perhaps more realistic than the other shows, NYPD BLUE, and HIGH INCIDENTrepresent the closest what life is really like. To a foreigner seeing theseshows, they would probably believe that America is a blood bath of crime and illwill towards other people. While this isn’t true the whole nation over, thereare many cities like those portrayed in these two shows. Like the other shows Iwill discuss, these two have casts made up of predominately Caucasian males andfemales.
Other nationalities, such as Asian, Afro-American, and Latino aresprinkled in just enough to make sure the shows are politically correct. To anoutsider this would show that white males dominate society and life in America. While this is certainly true in some respects, it is unfair to portray it assuch on television. Television influences the minds of too many people to showone class or people dominating over another, even when it isn’t obvious toeveryone. NBC’s Thursday night line up begins with the block-buster show FRIENDS, andends with the number one show, ER.
In between are sandwiched more shows thathave been hits. Every Thursday begins with two hours of comedy. First on thelist is FRIENDS. To an outsider FRIENDS shows the perfect male dominates femalerole of our society. The girls are ditsy, the blond especially so.
Of thethree guy friends, only one seems to not have all his brains. Two of the threeguys have steady, secure jobs. For the girls it’s three steady, but perhapsunsecure jobs, and poor paying. The character Rachel works at a coffee shop andPhoebe drives a cab, not exactly something to build careers on. The guys makemore money, even the character Joey, who’s job as an actor isn’t steady.
Ofcourse each girl is drop-dead gorgeous. To those watching in other countries,America is chalk full of pretty women waiting for a man to come sweep them offtheir feet. The next show, SINGLE GUY, has a slightly different message. America is also full of very happy married couples. The Single Guy himself ison a mission of marriage. That’s what the entire show is based on.
So far anoutsider comes to America, is gorgeous if you’re a woman, and a hunk if you’re aguy, has lots of friends, and is searching for a soul mate. Not quite America,but if you’re watching t. v. it is. Moving on there is SEINFELD.
The charactersin this show again have many friends. The twist to SEINFELD is that there all alittle off