My life has been unusually stressful lately, for a variety of reasons, and my personal strategy to get through such times has always been to devour certain television shows as though they were comfort food. The advent of the show-on-DVD has been a great comfort to me in that respect, because when I'm down and needing to spend some quality time with my cat and my couch, I can get lost in these stories for days. I am one of those people who is sad that movies are only two hours long: I like my narratives long and intricate, nineteenth-century style, which that explains why I'm such a nerd for any show best viewed as a DVD box set. (And, umm, the completely sad amount of money I've spent on acquiring them.)
All of that by way of saying I've been watching a lot of Six Feet Under, lately. Sometimes television snobs laugh at me when I tell them that Six Feet Under is by far my favorite of the high-end cable shows of the last few years. Though the show was always critically acclaimed in its own way, of course, it somehow never got the kind of artistic street cred that either The Wire or The Sopranos did. I have my theories about this, many of which are related to ideas I also have about people's evaluations of worth in literature.
ABC Family has cancelled one of my favorite shows of the last year—Huge. (On the chance you missed it, I highly recommend watching it online on ABC Family’s website. Hopefully they’ll leave it up awhile.)
It’s sad, though not surprising. Huge had the kind of pedigree that often spells network doom. It was created by Winnie Holzman, whose other most famous achievement is the also-one-season critical darling My So-Called Life. It was also a summer series—rarely ratings bonanzas—and it only aired on a niche network. Still, that considered, it averaged about 1.9 million viewers over its run, which doesn’t sound like a lot until you realize that the third season of Mad Men, for all its critical adulation, only averaged about 1.8 million viewers during its third season. It’s true that the math is different on a network than at a cable channel, in terms of an acceptable amount of viewers, but still.
I’ve watched America’s Next Top Model intermittently over the years. I can’t really say why. I was never that interested in fashion magazines, which seemed to me to depict another planet altogether, accessible only to the very rich. I have, furthermore, never much understood the fascination with models. Understand that when I say that I am not trying to make any claims about the difficulty of the work they do - I don’t "hate models" or anything so broad as that. It’s just that they don’t seem to hold for me the kind of visceral fascination they do for other people.
I admit I do have one philosophical objection to modeling. I simply do not know how we are going to build a world where everyone is valued if we keep insisting that no, really, some people are more valuable than others. Particularly if we do so on bases over which they have little individual control - such as being socially "attractive," meeting the critical mass of "pretty" that will get you on magazine covers and sigh-ingly acknowledged, by almost everyone, as "gorgeous." I don’t see how that strain of the cultural conversation benefits anyone in the slightest.