TV: What We Watch
Teacher: Good morning. Who watched TV last night? Ah, most of you. OK, today we are going to talk about an important part of the media—TV. Specifically, TV viewing
and TV dramas. Now first, I'll give you some background, then we’ll discuss what
makes this type of programming, dramas, so popular worldwide.
OK. Let's get started. Most of you would agree that watching TV is part of most people's lives. Now statistics vary on how much TV people watch, but research shows that quite a few Americans, on average, exceed six hours of TV per day.
An English professor named Cecelia Tichi has studied TV for many years. In her book, Electronic Hearth: Creating an American Television Culture, she discusses how the TV has become the center of activity at home. We walk into a room, turn on the TV, and suddenly the outside world becomes less important. People use TV to tune out, or forget, about the outside world. We’re
safe to relax and join the world of the TV shows. Do you ever feel this way about TV? Yes, many of you are nodding. She also sees our culture as being defined by TV. Now, by this she means that TV has a huge influence on our attitudes, on what we like to eat, on what we like to wear, on what we
like to talk about. For example, popular TV shows are discussed at work, at school, in coffee shops. Why, even children four or five years old do this with their favorite shows. This shows that we live in a TV culture.
Improved technology has contributed further to our TV culture. Satellite services, in particular, have expanded the TV programming in many parts of the world. There are now hundreds of TV channels people can watch, and the options continue to expand: game shows, sports, news, talk shows, comedies, TV dramas, movies,…
Man, with cable and satellite there are a lot of choices.
Nielsen Media Research studies people's TV viewing habits in the U.S. They monitor which shows are popular and with whom. For example, popular shows have included the game show “Who Wants To Be
A Millionaire?” and the reality TV show
Survivor. They were very, very popular and watched by millions of people of all age groups.
Now, all of this is really background. What I want to focus on today is one form of a popular TV show that is popular with many people of many age groups. This is TV dramas, specifically TV dramas known as soap operas, or, in Spanish, telenovelas. Some of you might be familiar with
telenovelas. Telenovelas and soap operas in the U.S. are similar but have one big difference—the number of episodes they
have. Telenovelas and TV serials end after about 200 episodes. The story eventually ends. Soap operas in the U.S.;however,
continue day after day for many years and may never end. Well, for example, “The
Guiding Light” has been on for more than
12,000 episodes, and on it goes. Can you believe that? More than 12,000 episodes! Soap operas started in the United States in 1959, with the show “The Guiding Light.”
These TV shows were called soap operas because the main advertisers were companies that made soap.
Now, this type of programming is popular all over the world. Dozens of countries make their own soap opera shows. Mexican soap operas have been voted the most popular TV show of the year in countries such as Korea and Russia. Japanese soap operas are sent to Belgium. U.S. soap operas are watched worldwide. The Latin American soap opera, “Betty La Fea”, or
“Betty The Ugly”, was a huge success in
the U.S. Brazilian telenovelas are the most widely distributed television shows in the world and have been seen in more than 100 countries. And there are many other examples.
What is it about these shows that makes
them popular everywhere? And why do people from very different cultures all enjoy watching the same soap opera? Well, there are a couple of reasons.
One reason suggested by Robert C. Allen, who has done extensive research on television viewing, is that many soap operas deal with universal themes that people all over the world understand. Themes are topics—for example, family,
love, personal struggle, money problems, marriage problems, health problems, job problems. Viewers do not need to know the culture in order to understand the family problems in the show.
Now according to Irna Phillips, one of the
creators of “The Guiding Light”, another
reason is that people identify with the characters. They feel the characters are just like them. To quote her from an interview, "they (the soap operas) deal with life as we know it.” Now by this she means the
families in soap operas deal with problems of everyday life. And so, as people watch every day, day after day, a special bond or feeling develops between them and the TV family. They get to know the characters and their problems. The TV family’s welfare
becomes important. There is a sense of community, of sharing, of family. All of these things contribute to character loyalty. If any of you have watched a show
regularly, you know what I mean. You watch it because you identify with the characters.
Now, writers of TV shows understand that TV viewers want to have a group of characters to know and care about. As Wendy Riche, former executive producer of “General Hospital” put it, “the audience
wants a personal, human connection;and
when they get it, they are devoted.” This
means they become very loyal to the TV characters they watch every day. To give an interesting example from “As the World
Turns”: Some years back, the writers wanted to have the main character, Bob Hughes, get shot on a Friday. Well, that
Friday turned out to be Christmas Eve. The producers of the show told the writers, “No,
no, no …he can’t be shot on this Friday’s
show.” Do you know why?
Student 1: Because it was too violent? Teacher: Well, no, not because it was too violent, but they didn’t want him shot on
the Friday before Christmas.
Student 1？Why? I mean, why not?
Teacher: Because the audience would worry all weekend about him. They wouldn’t know if he was alive or dead, and they would not enjoy Christmas. So, the writers had to change the story, and have him shot after Christmas. I mean;the
viewers really identify with these characters