TV Culture:

One writer explores the concept of television as the new ‘watercooler’

By Chelsea Parker

So, we all live, learn, work and play in St. Augustine. It’s a great little city. It has charm and history, the beach right down the street and a “big city” not too far north. All in all there’s a lot of diversity and opportunity to do fun, interesting and exciting things. Unfortunately, the life of a college student usually means the money situation is less then desirable, which also cuts back on one’s driving potential. My friends and I have seen all the movies out, we’ve danced at all the Jacksonville clubs, we’ve checked out all the local bars and restaurants, but mostly we’ve walked and biked around every square inch of downtown.

The beautiful city of St. Augustine: been there, done that. Most weekday nights we all just hang out and watch VH1, just to avoid what homework still isn’t done.

Usually the TV is just part of the ambient background noise, but sometimes the TV is a major part of what we’re doing tonight. That, of course, all depends what night it is. At my house Wednesday is game day. At ten o’clock my whole house and about seven of our closest friends gather in utmost admiration to watch Bravo’s “Project Runway.” Reality TV is already irresistible, let alone when mixed with a few of our favorite things: sexy and awkward models, miles of fabric, New York City, sewing, dramatic gay guys, runways, Heidi Klum, fashion design, and of course, Tim Gunn. Much like the opposite of the Super Bowl, it’s all talk and gossip during commercials and complete silence (well, not complete, sometimes captions must be turned on) when the show returns. It’s actually a pretty big event. We meet about up an hour before, play catch up, and then take orders for food. By the time ten o’clock rolls around there’s no reason to ever leave the couch.

It all started last year with Season One. I was still trying to figure out which channel is which when my roommate Nikki discovered the show. We’d do anything to make sure we didn’t miss it. I knew this wasn’t unusual because I saw it happening all around me. In fact, my friends and I always wanted to watch our show in the Rotunda, but we found it was already taken by “Alias” and Jennifer Garner fans. We finally found our place in the Lion’s Lair.

This year the Lion’s Lair belongs to someone else, now the party goes down in my living room. And that’s when I thought about how we invite everyone over and basically just celebrate what’s on TV. Even though it’s weird to think that we’re all coming together to watch an hour of programming one night a week, it makes sense. As I am a communication major I understand that TV is an extremely powerful thing. But it wasn’t until lately that I thought about the shows that bring us together: “The OC,” “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives,” “CSI,” “24,” “House,” “American Idol,” “Mythbusters,” and way too many more for me to even mention. I can only imagine how many TV related get-togethers Flagler students have in one week.

It seems TV gets a bad reputation as being something that makes us less intelligent and less active. But I asked a few students what they thought about TV as stimulus for creating new friendships, making good relationships stronger, and discussion of whatever topics come to mind. Sociology major Allie Denman understands the importance of human interaction: “People who watch TV are automatically assumed to be mindless couch potatoes, but watching TV with friends can actually be really interactive. You learn a lot about friends when you’re constantly discussing different people, places, ideas and events.”

Junior Eleanor Tucker frequently joins Allie at her house to watch “The OC”: “I think our small parties are fun and it’s a good way to meet new people. Someone brings a friend, and next week they bring a friend, and soon the whole living room is full. But there’s no pressure to fit in, because if you like the same show as me, we already have something in common. The show is the reason we got together, but the people you’re with are always more interesting.”

It seems having TV-related get-togethers isn’t as shallow as it sounds. TV trivia has become a major part of pop culture, and whether we like it or not, it all helps shape our society’s goals and values.

Sometimes keeping up with what’s current not only means watching the news or reading The New York Times, as I learned in all my communications classes, but also watching popular prime-time shows. And there’s no better way to do that in college than with your friends.

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