A look at our sometimes uncomfortable relationship to television.
In the first half of the show, Eric Newman is joined by Hunter Hargraves to talk about his new book, Uncomfortable Television. Hargraves argues that since the dawn of the new millennium, American television has kept audiences glued to the screens with intensely plotted and character-driven dramas that borrow from the epic aesthetics of cinema as well as reality programming. At the same time, this type of TV shellacks us with disturbing images and themes: graphic sex, addiction, misogyny and racialized violence, despicable antiheroes, and the exploitative world of ordinary people sharing their profound pain for a national audience of millions. What's unique about this programming is that it encourages us to find pleasure in being disturbed, training us to survive an increasingly precarious world that it also asks us to surrender to.
Next Newman and Kate Wolf speak with LARB's TV editor Phillip Maciak about his new book, Avidly Reads: Screentime. Part cultural criticism, part personal essay, Screentime explores how fears over kids spending too much time playing video games and watching TV in the 1990s has morphed in the current proliferation of ubiquitous screens that capture—and demand—our attention seemingly everywhere. Screentime looks at how what once was a threat has now become a metric tracked in every moment of our lives.