What’s the Big Deal with TV?

Television has become a staple past time in America and around the world.  More people vote for TV reality shows like “Dancing with the Stars”, “The Voice” and “American Idol” than they do in the presidential election.  TV is a more powerful agent for social change than any representative in congress will ever hope to be.

This fascination with TV isn’t new.   In the late 1950’s, at the height of the “I Love Lucy” phenomenon, Desi Arnaz observed the following about the difference between his pre and post TV life: “There’s something to say for TV.  When you tour as a picture star, people look at you as some sort of a curiosity.  This time there was a wholly different feeling.  The people act as if they were your personal friends.”

Flash forward to today, and the actors who star on weekly TV shows are plastered all over the magazines and tabloids at the grocery store, all over the internet and in the hearts of their most loyal viewers.  Our favorite TV shows are often on the air for years, and those characters become a cherished part of our lives and our weekly routines; they start to feel like extended family.  More importantly, we start to see ourselves and learn about our own lives through the eyes of our favorite characters.

TV is unique, apart from movies or books, because the stories are told over the course of years as opposed to mere hours.  TV is a living organism as long as the show is still on the air.  Shows continue to stay on the air because fans keep watching.  TV is reliant upon ratings and viewership.  This gives an audience a certain amount of power, just because it’s the nature of the beast; that hasn’t changed.

What has changed is the technology.  Audiences are more involved with TV than ever.   With each development of the internet and social media, the world gets a little smaller.  Now, fans of a TV show from all over the United States and around the globe are connected like never before.  On my personal Twitter account alone, I follow and have followers from all regions of the United States, Canada, England, Spain, Australia, Ireland, Norway, Venezuela, New Zealand, Germany, Scottland and beyond. We all have the same TV show in common.

Thanks to social media, the interaction of fans with each other and directly with a TV show’s creative team and cast becomes a vital part of the TV viewing experience.  As Deirdre Bannon, vice president of social media at Nielsen states, “Twitter has become the second screen experience for television. ”  Watching TV live each week with my Twitter friends has become a lot of fun, and has increased my investment in what I am watching ten-fold.  The social media driven fan communities that form around a TV show have become an integral part of the health of a TV show because of the collective voice it fosters.

If taken together, that collective global voice becomes very powerful when working towards a common goal, and it can pack a hell of a punch.  This has enormous implications for television.  These vocal audiences all have their own, sometimes competing interests.   But there is also a growing population of advocates for better representation for minority characters on TV because they finally have the platform to do so by having direct access to the people who are responsible for creating the show itself.  Audiences realize in a big way the power of TV to affect the cultural change they are asking for.

For better or worse, TV is one of the most influential factors on society, and this will continue to be true thanks to social media.  Sorry, but it’s not “just a TV show” anymore.

About VersusTheFans

Amplifying and celebrating the value of popular art, especially TV, in giving a voice to women and the LGBT community, in addition to serving as a media watcher on LGBT reporting.

Posted on December 22, 2012, in All Posts, Fandom, Social Media, TV Shows and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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