Updated: Jun 26
I used to have a TV Buddy.
We never actually watched television together but we talked a lot about what we watched when we were growing up.
We had very different backgrounds but somehow we got onto the subject of TV and discovered that in fact we were both members of the same extended electronic family.
Most of the shows we talked about were from the 1960 and 1970s and there we discovered that we had similar tastes. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century? Guilty pleasure. Love Boat? Rubbish! Love American Style? Another guilty pleasure. I'l telling you, if my friend had given the thumbs-up on Love Boat, the conversation would have been so totally over!
My favourite was my TV Buddy's name for The Starlost: "TBD". That's what the newspaper listing for that particular show would be when they aired reruns on the local CTV station. Perhaps they thought no one would watch it if the actual name was used. We both had an intense love/hate relationship with The Starlost, which in it's unique way was gloriously terrible. (I have a complicated relationship with The Starlost which you can learn about in this interview with Alan Gordon - who is my buddy but not my TV buddy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_TXLBH0LLw&t=91s ).
The Starlost was an exception to our critical analysis. Most of our appreciation was not of the "it's so bad, it's good" school. My TV Buddy took television very seriously, mostly because it was the only affordable culture available. Soon, I began to see how productions that we might see as banal, formula-driven, even silly -- could have geniune merit where the creators applied real skill and care in their realization. You want a contemporary interpretation of Les Miserables? Check out The Fugitive. An Enemy of The People? Tune into The Invaders. The Admirable Crichton? Gilligan's Island. And a show like The Twilight Zone? It was just great in all ways.
All of this fizzy-drink-fueled discussion set me up for reading Popular Culture and High Culture: An Analysis and Evaluation Of Taste. (https://www.amazon.ca/Popular-Culture-High-Analysis-Evaluation/dp/0465026095). It's a fascinating read and it subversively suggests that there is excellence to be found in all levels of our culture expressions -- from opera to those little comic strips you get in bubble gum packaging. And it's not all an ironic love of "camp" -- a lot of it is good work done by talented people trying their best.
I thank my TV Buddy for this and I'm very sad that we somehow lost touch. Thanks to the partial re-opening of the public library system here, I've got the DVD set of the final season of Battlestar Galactica and I wish I had someone to talk to about it.