Last week, the NBC network issued a press release detailing its television lineup for the 2008-2009 season, which includes such gems as:
KNIGHT RIDER – On the heels of NBC’s hit movie, the iconic 1980s television classic comes roaring back to life as an updated drama series showcasing the new customized KITT (Knight Industries Three Thousand) Ford Mustang. As the sequel resumes, KITT is absolutely the coolest car ever created: its supercomputer capable of hacking almost any system; its weapons systems efficient; and its body—thanks to its creator’s work and nanotechnology—is capable of actually shifting shape and color. It is the ultimate car—and someone will be willing to do anything to obtain it.
THE LISTENER – In this one-hour drama, Toby Logan (Craig Olejnik, “The Runaway”) is a 24-year-old paramedic living with a secret: he can read people’s minds. This telepathic procedural takes viewers into the heart of a tortured hero who struggles to solve crimes with his unique gift. Week-to-week, “The Listener” balances high-stakes drama with irreverent humor and sends Toby on an intellectual and emotional adventure.
This is the first of many articles about television, a medium often maligned by critics and the public alike for its general pandering and almost-oppressive vapidity. So when writing about television there are two important questions: is television worth writing about; and, if so, how does one write about it? Are the methods and challenges in conceiving, producing, and distributing television significant enough to make it more than a mere subset of cinema? This column will argue that, yes, television is an entirely different animal. The nature of television allows it to easily reflect the fundamental dilemmas of the culture it inhabits and the individuals who make and watch it. When you watch American television, you are watching America.