Sarah Bowman: It's bewildering to me that my teens like TV so much. I studied film in college, used to work in the film business and follow the new releases as avidly as I attempt to introduce my brood to the classics. I much prefer the visual scope and narrative possibilities of film, so can't imagine loading up an iPod with episodes of "The Office" before an airplane ride, like my son does. Why wouldn't he spend his valuable downtime hours catching up on the latest blockbuster?
I've sat down next to him to watch plenty of those shows and realized this: Although there is a ridiculous amount of bad television out there, good TV is better than ever. I don't blame my kids for their choices; "The Simpsons," "The Office," "Gilmore Girls" and "The Mentalist" (their latest favorite) are all great shows. I'm relieved they're not watching reality shows and glad that they seem to know good writing. But still, I have to wonder why a kid would rather watch the 900th rerun of a show he knows intimately instead of heading out to a nice cozy movie theater to see a new movie on the big screen.
I'm hoping it's a generational thing (otherwise, I'd have to deal with the fact that it could be pure laziness or a lack of imagination on the part of my offspring). Of course, the portability of media to smaller screens gets a nod as a significant factor, and the half-hour and hour-long format suits this increasingly ADD generation. But neither excuse satisfactorily explains why my kids would choose the umpteenth season of "One Tree Hill" over big-screen extravaganzas like "Harry Potter" or "King Kong" or "The Watchman." (I'm sure the studios who make these blockbusters must ask themselves the same thing, too.)
So, I'm left to wonder about the stories themselves. Maybe it's age-appropriate to prefer familiar characters. Or perhaps the comedy is just so good on television, and they'd really rather be laughing. Movie special effects are able to transport kids to the most wondrous places now, I half-expected this generation to become Effects Junkies, interested only in an increasingly exotic diet of new vistas. The good news is that audiences still respond to good stories -- which explains why "Star Wars" wins over every child who first sees it, no matter how hokey those effects now appear to be. Turns out, just having great effects in a movie doesn't guarantee a great story -- and if the products aren't consistent, kids aren't going to rely upon them.
The difference between the generations may just be this: I love not knowing what I'm going to feel when I watch a film. Will I love it? Will I forget it by next Tuesday, or rue the two hours wasted on a lousy title? I will happily plunk down popcorn money without really knowing if I'll be satisfied. But kids like a sure thing -- and with the television shows in their lives, they know how to get it.
|Sarah Bowman is the Co-Founder of Kids Off the Couch.com. She has a BA in Semiotics from Brown University and worked in the film business as a studio executive before becoming a writer. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two teenagers.|