Tuesday, February 17, 2015

CORE RESPONSE 2: "Watching," "Reading" & "Driving"

The hypothesis that television is akin to freeways or malls was a shocker. Having just "driven" home from school, (I use quotes because is going 0 miles per hour really driving?) an act I do daily, I can say that it resonates when considering public TV viewing, an act I rarely do and wish I did even less (much like driving from USC to Sherman Oaks in rush hour). Kowalski's line describing "detached involvement" -- "Perhaps no aspect of the freeway experience is more characteristic than the sudden realization that you have no memory of the past ten minutes of your trip."  is one I have often. In fact, I'll have NPR on the radio and not even notice the shows have changed until I'm stuck in one of Dante's lesser-known rungs of hell: when you've been trapped in your car for so long the news cycle repeats itself. 
Before I get into the similarities I noticed between my public TV viewing experience and driving (Malls? Do those even still exist?) I'd like to make one point: Thinking about television as a window as having replaced other means, like, oh, say, BOOKS as windows is made especially complicated when the writer of said books we are reading use a style of language that is basically incomprehensible. These texts, in particular Morse, uses such dense language that it is painful to read in a way that is not dissimilar from trying to comprehend a nuanced TV show being shown in the middle of a night club. 
That said, I "watched" teevee at a restaurant called Tuning Fork in Studio City. I went there for lunch yesterday and I had never been there before. I was not expecting bougie restaurant to even have TVs, but there they were-- two flat screen TVs front and center. I made sure I sat on the side of the table that faced them. One screen was showing a tennis match and the other was showing a soccer game. Now, I put watch in quotes because it's similar to my experience "driving"-- I was having lunch with a good friend who has been having a bad time lately, the TVs were just far enough away that I could not read the score, and the volume was muted, so I wasn't really "watching" in the traditional sense, or at least in the way that I watch at home. As a TV writer, I respect TV. I know full well how much work went into the creation of any episode of any program and so I watch it with singular focus, as I hope people will do for my shows someday. At this bar however, chunks of time would pass and something on the screen would catch my attention and I'd remember that I was "watching" and try to figure out what had just happened. In this way, I could see the commonalities between the two activities. But at least I can tell you the route I took home (Vermont to the 10 to the 405 to Wilshire to Sepulveda ...) and the annoying white Chevy Cruiser that kept cutting me off. I can't tell you who won either game. 


  1. Hi Andrea, I really enjoy your reflection of TV as a form of detached involvement. I think Morse’s marriage of these three activities is really effective. I certainly experience the “zombie effect” (203) and space out while engaging in all three of these activities. Freeway driving and TV watching can be quite similar to the numbing experience of window shopping; the distance and overstimulation I endure encourages a really frightening mental nonspace. Whenever I’m at a mall, the commercial bombardment contrasted with physical separation (establish by the translucent wall between “interior” and “exterior” environments) make me almost disengaged entirely after awhile. Similarly, on the freeway, soaring above the grounded streets within the community, I see so much at once, yet I’m immersed in none of it. In a sense, my mind is nowhere.

  2. While driving home from school on the 10, to the 110 to the 101 I was snapped out of my trance like state when I heard this story on NPR about reinventing American shopping malls.