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October 11, 2006

Filed under: movies»television

Television Week, Part 3: Pitiless

It would be a poor discussion of TV without mentioning Television Without Pity, which is (as far as I can tell) the definite recap site on the Internet. What an oddity: before cheap online publishing, who would think that someone would take the trouble to write detailed summaries of television shows, episode-by-episode?

I visit Television Without Pity on a semi-regular basis, once or twice a week. I started when Belle and I first started dating, and she was looking forward to the season of Alias. In that case, I wanted to catch up on the show so I could watch her with it--I was using TWoP (as it refers to itself) for its supposedly intended purpose. But with a little more perspective, I tend to disagree that strict recapping actually is the purpose behind the site anymore, if it ever was. It's not why I keep reading, and I can't imagine that it's why other people do.

I read it nowadays for a couple of shows, Galactica of course but also Project Runway and occasionally Veronica Mars. One reason is that the recappers, who have clearly watched the shows over and over again in order to write about them, often catch things that I didn't see on the first viewing, and they don't hesitate to hold opinions on the plot and the characters. Considering that media have become so plentiful and audiences so fragmented (with the exception of the big hits like Lost or Grey's Anatomy), I wonder if TWoP isn't a sublimated way of "discussing" the last episode with a friend.

There's also a whole set of recaps on the site that cannot possibly exist for any purpose other than satire and "ironic commentary." 7th Heaven? Is there really anyone who was worried about the huge creepy Christian family and their constant counter-cultural plotlines? Writing about this is a kind of hipster thing to do: pick something that everyone loathes, and then use it to highlight your own relative coolness, all under the cover of irony. It's not about the show at all, it's about the writer and the readers admiring the writer, united by their mutual distaste for the subject.

I'm split between admiration and revulsion on that one. But in that urge, Television Without Pity exposes something of the relationship with media nowadays. Entertainment is created, and then fed into a huge grist mill of analysis, which in turn has become entertainment in and of itself. We are, just as with a comedian who must be shown on huge screens and sound systems for his "live" show, farther removed and mediated from the stories that surround us.

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