Rant: Why Books Are Better

I love intellectually and emotionally challenging entertainment.  I love fiction that makes me question my beliefs, my assumptions, and my own awareness.  I love fiction that pulls me out of the known and asserts the possibility of the unknown.

I recently watched the series finale of Touch.  The first season was an incredibly challenging story of a father’s efforts to parent his very special son in a world that didn’t understand him.  While the circumstances were markedly different, I identified with the emotional tenor of the piece.  The first season revolves around the father’s discovery of his son’s special connection with the world, with which the son could predict numbers that would lead the father to important discoveries in order to help others become attuned to the universe.  While I didn’t identify with that, I did enjoy the mystical qualities of the story and the emphasis on connection.

Then, the second season devolved into something more familiar (from television) where there was a lot less mysticism and a lot more good guys vs. bad guys intrigue.  I’m not sure, but I suspect this was a market-driven decision.  Kiefer Sutherland plays the father in Touch.  He also played the infamously heroic Jack Bauer in 24.

Personally, I didn’t start watching 24 until after the second season of Touch started.  But, it didn’t take me long to notice how strangely similar Martin Baum had become to Jack Bauer.  Now, in 24 Kiefer Sutherland’s character, Jack Bauer, is an anti-terrorist government agent who is known for doing whatever it takes to get the job done at great personal cost.  His actions and motivations make sense.  In Touch, Kiefer Sutherland’s character, Martin Baum, is a former journalist turned full-time dad on the run.  It’s perfectly understandable that Martin Baum would do anything and everything he can to keep his son safe and help his son fulfill his role in the universe.  It’s not nearly so understandable that he would be able to do so.

So, when Touch became more driven by greed and danger, i.e. more like 24, I can’t help but think it was a market-driven decision.  After all, 24 was a popular television show that lasted for eight seasons.  Fox is still trying to revive and capitalize on it.  Touch was less successful from a market standpoint.  So, after a great, intellectually-challenging first season and a sell-out of a second season, Fox canceled Touch and is now trying to revive 24.

There’s a simple explanation.  Television shows thrive on two things:

  1. Gaining the viewing support of the masses.
  2. Gaining the advertising support of businesses.

I act somewhat outside this paradigm, because technological advancements allow me to watch “television” on my own time on my computer—and I haven’t watched an actual television show as it was aired in over a year, maybe two or three years.

Fringe and Touch are two examples of show I find motivating.  They are intellectually and emotionally challenging.  But they’re not popular.  They don’t fit with the current television paradigm.  Instead, shows like Dancing with the Stars and American Idol thrive.  And don’t even get me started on the smuttier reality television shows.

The point?  Books are better!

Those of us who enjoy fiction outside the mainstream can write and read the kind of stories we find compelling without having to worry much about the masses.  Thanks to small publishers and self-publishing, we can cultivate a small but enthralled audience that demands our work without having to worry about the networks dumping us in favor of something that stands a better chance at mass appeal.

So, here’s to hoping that the story started in Touch can be revived…as a series of great books written for a smaller audience!  After all, anything is possible.

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About Stephanie Allen Crist

Stephanie created and produces ComeSootheYourAchingSoul.com in answer to a call from God to use her experiences and gifts to help others. Stephanie is also the author of www.StephanieAllenCrist.com and two books that can be found on that site. Stephanie strives to share her love, faith, and talents in an inclusive manner to help others who know spiritual pain and who know the bitter taste of the dregs of despair.
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12 Responses to Rant: Why Books Are Better

  1. acflory says:

    I’ve never watched 24 but I did watch the first few episodes of Touch. Can’t quite remember why I stopped watching it but I suspect I just stopped watching TV generally. Reading and gaming give me all the relaxation I need, and it’s been years since I watched the commercial channels anyway. There’s a desperation to the programming that you commented on in your post. I think TV is changing along with newspapers and media in general and the producers are busily trying to stem the tide by giving audiences what they think they want.

    The ironic thing is that masses more women watch tv than men, and they watch it for longer, plus they are the ones who usually do most of the shopping, yet the trashy romances are a daytime feature only. If they had any brains they’d just program more romance for the evening time slot as well. I’m sure their advertising revenues would jump – at least until their programming reached aversion therapy levels. 😉

    Sorry, I truly loathe commercial TV.

    • I do too, though possibly for different reasons. I just don’t like being on someone else’s time-table when it comes to my own entertainment. If I can avoid the commercials, then that’s an added bonus. Mostly I ignore them anyway.

      The bigger issue for me, though, is the lack of satisfaction from most of what is available on television. The trashy romances are a prime example. I just don’t get the appeal.

      • acflory says:

        Re trashy romances – I don’t either, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are Huge. 😦

      • True. Just don’t try to write one. I know I never will. Just not the right fit, no matter how huge the market is.

      • acflory says:

        lol – no, I may write a story someday with romance /in/ it, but I’d rather bite off my own fingers than type something to a formula.

      • lmao Though I’m not nearly so adamant against formula, romance novels are far beyond my tolerance on so many levels, the least of which is the formulaic storytelling and the questionable prose.

        On the other hand, I will undoubtedly write stories with romance in it. The difference being that the fantasy element has more to do with magic, science, or some combination of the two than, um, smut. It’s one thing to acknowledge that, yes, characters do have sex and it can be vital enough to the story to show it. It’s another thing for the story to be about characters trying to have sex and then having sex and then living happily ever after between the sheets.

        I must admit, technically, it is a plot. It’s just not one I can even imagine being interested in.

      • acflory says:

        -giggles- You forgot that other major plot point – the other man/woman. 🙂

        I have no objection to stories about characters, and characters having relationships. I don’t even mind a happy ending every now and then, but what happens in most romance novels is so far removed from any reality I know it’s more fantasy than Fantasy.

        Years and years ago I heard romance described as soft porn for women. Now I know that not all stories involving romance are like that but…for me the stigma has stuck.

        Clearly if I ever write anything with even a hint of romance in it I will be hung by my own petard, but that’s a risk I’ll have to take.

      • It’s the whole “more fantasy than Fantasy”/soft porn bit that gets me, too. If I wanted porn, I’d watch porn. I don’t.

        As for the other man/woman…my impression is that all of these characters are so unreal to begin with… Can cardboard obstacles really be called plot points? Isn’t more like the ultimate strawman?

      • acflory says:

        lol – I think it would be hard to separate us on this issue! Couldn’t agree more.

  2. I know what you mean about reality TV and the like; just wince when I see shows like X-factor nowadays. I think the problem is that the more money something costs to make, the more likely it is to be driven primarily by profit interests. TV shows cost a lot more to make than books, comics etc do, so its understandable that said shows are less likely to take risks.

    That said, I must admit that I never liked Touch. I just could not get into it at all. Being a massive Twenty Four fan probably didn’t help.

    • The cost issue is definitely the motivating factor. If they can’t keep the advertisers happy, then they can’t keep the network happy, and they can’t make the show. It’s one of many reasons I just can’t see myself ever getting involved in screenwriting.

      I could see why the transition from 24 to Touch would be difficult, though I suspect it may have been something of a relief for Kiefer Sutherland. The captivating thing about Touch, for me, is twofold. First, my interest was piqued when the show was first coming out and there was controversy about Jake and the autism connection. As the mother of three children with autism, I wanted to see what all the hype was about. I kept watching, however, because I do enjoy looking on the rather mystical side of life. There is a lot that we don’t understand, and the scientific approach is simply to disbelieve and ignore it. I like it when people are willing to explore it and try to make sense of it, even if only in fiction.

      But, rumor is 24 is coming back in some guise or other. I hope they bring Tony back, too, because it’s just a better show with him in it.

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