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Should Liberals Watch More TV?

Vanessa Richmond's article about progressives watching television stirred some furious debate. Here are the highlights.

In a piece recently published on AlterNet, Vanessa Richmond urged progressives to put down their Nabokov novels and flip on the television. TV is back, Richmond argued, and its content is better and more challenging than ever.

"Whether you’re watching an hour of Mad Men on your laptop in bed, getting into a couch-coma on a Sunday with a rented series on DVD, or tuning into Letterman or Colbert at night while checking your email," Richmond wrote, "TV can be a rejuvenating, stimulating, and rewarding experience."

But as Richmond pointed out, progressives have long had a fraught relationship with television. As Michael Moore put it almost a decade ago, "Do you know what's wrong with the Left? They don’t watch TV." According to Richmond, many on the left continue to associate television with poor quality and even worse politics -- "the Right and the average."

As she tells friends who claim to loathe television, "Culture includes all sorts of things, but TV is the baseline, (yes, sometimes it’s base, but that’s part of the point) which means not watching it makes you as uninformed as someone who doesn’t read the news. And I know you all do that. Watching TV means you get to learn about and have more informed conversations about politics, values, culture ... and relationships, sex, and drugs."

Many of our readers agreed with Richmond's argument that television can be both enjoyable and important.

Cordas, a British fan of American TV, delivered one of the more succinct defenses, touching on a few shows and highlighting the political significance of each.

No one is saying you should be sitting with your eyes glued to the box, no one is saying that everything put on TV is brilliant, no one is saying that every show and commercial is brimming with artistic merit and talent.

What is being said is that there are some real gems, there are shows that have their eye on current social affairs (things you might not be aware of), shows that are engaged in having a decent look at / investigation of what is going on at the moment (and in recent history), and that some of these shows are also damn entertaining.

The Wire is an in-depth study of drugs and the effect they have on all sides of the line. It has a hell of a lot to say about the implications of the 'war on drugs' and what that actually means to the people involved, the junkies, the criminals, the police, wider society, politics, education e.t.c.

Battlestar Galactica touched on a whole raft of issues that could be tied into 'the war on terror', and also discussions about power and abuse of power, mob rule and the rest.

True Blood throws light on racism and xenophobia/ patriotism and the darker side of it.

The thing is there is a ton of really good tv out there that taps directly into what is going on in society and is well worth watching.

Finally maybe if some self righteous smug gits stopped whining that its all 'crap' and watched some of the better shows (many of which do attract acres of media coverage) then TV companies would make more of the decent stuff and less of the crap. Afterall one thing most of us are agreed on is that the TV companies will follow the ratings... More decent TV gets good ratings then more decent telly will get made....

Many commentators enthusiastically agreed with Cortas (and Vanessa Richmond) that there is plenty of good stuff on TV.

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