Six Hours of Television


In looking at modern television programming there are hundreds of shows
to choose from. Picking six hours of television to analyze from the prospective
of an anthropologist is by no means easy. It is easy however, to talk about
what our nation looks like to others who have never been here. Everyone is
gorgeous, lives happily, and overcomes all problems, but more on that later.
Four hours of the programming I chose is perhaps the most popular programming
this year, consistently topping the Nielsen ratings. For the remaining two
hours of programming I decided to look at two police drama shows, one that was
brand new this season and one not brand new, but still going strong.
For the two hours of police dramas, I looked at programs with different
angles. NYPD BLUE is the story of police detectives, and HIGH INCIDENT was a
new show that looked at the view of policing from the Œbeat.\' HIGH INCIDENT
represented one of the first t.v. shows to come from the SKG works of Steven
Spielberg. However, just like Spielberg\'s previous AMAZING STORIES, HIGH
INCIDENT has already ceased to air. This could still change though, with the
next season. Of the remaining four hours, three are on television every
Thursday night, and include the tremendously popular FRIENDS, the SINGLE GUY,
the hits SEINFELD and CAROLINE IN THE CITY, and the most popular show this year,
ER. For the remaining hour I choose to look at THE TONIGHT SHOW, with Jay Leno.
Between these shows there are many similarities and many differences. All of
these shows can be directly compared with each other, having some of the same
qualities. Looking at these shows in the perspective of an anthropologist some
disquieting trends emerge. I will present the information as if an outsider,
from another nation, were watching American shows, and believed what he/she was
seeing to be true of what goes on in America.
Perhaps more realistic than the other shows, NYPD BLUE, and HIGH INCIDENT
represent the closest what life is really like. To a foreigner seeing these
shows, they would probably believe that America is a blood bath of crime and ill
will towards other people. While this isn\'t true the whole nation over, there
are many cities like those portrayed in these two shows. Like the other shows I
will discuss, these two have casts made up of predominately Caucasian males and
females. Other nationalities, such as Asian, Afro-American, and Latino are
sprinkled in just enough to make sure the shows are politically correct. To an
outsider this would show that white males dominate society and life in America.
While this is certainly true in some respects, it is unfair to portray it as
such on television. Television influences the minds of too many people to show
one class or people dominating over another, even when it isn\'t obvious to
everyone.
NBC\'s Thursday night line up begins with the block-buster show FRIENDS, and
ends with the number one show, ER. In between are sandwiched more shows that
have been hits. Every Thursday begins with two hours of comedy. First on the
list is FRIENDS. To an outsider FRIENDS shows the perfect male dominates female
role of our society. The girls are ditsy, the blond especially so. Of the
three guy friends, only one seems to not have all his brains. Two of the three
guys have steady, secure jobs. For the girls it\'s three steady, but perhaps
unsecure jobs, and poor paying. The character Rachel works at a coffee shop and
Phoebe drives a cab, not exactly something to build careers on. The guys make
more money, even the character Joey, who\'s job as an actor isn\'t steady. Of
course each girl is drop-dead gorgeous. To those watching in other countries,
America is chalk full of pretty women waiting for a man to come sweep them off
their feet. The next show, SINGLE GUY, has a slightly different message.
America is also full of very happy married couples. The Single Guy himself is
on a mission of marriage. That\'s what the entire show is based on. So far an
outsider comes to America, is gorgeous if you\'re a woman, and a hunk if you\'re a
guy, has lots of friends, and is searching for a soul mate. Not quite America,
but if you\'re watching t.v. it is. Moving on there is SEINFELD. The characters
in this show again have many friends. The twist to SEINFELD is that there all a
little off the wall. A new angle, come to America, and still have