Yesterday, the L.A. Times Calendar section reported on the Writer’s Guild of America’s very first Top 101 TV shows list. See the full story and list here.
I don’t disagree with the claims the article made introducing the list, including “television is a writer’s medium, so it makes sense that the Writers Guild of America would have its own list of the 101 greatest TV shows of all time,” and “we’re living in a golden age of television.” Yes and yes.
And I do think the fact that this list exists is important, awesome, and speaks to some rather grandiose claims made about TV as an art form by a certain someone. The conversations and voting that went into compiling this list must have resulted in the biggest list-composing orgasm ever for the WGA members who contributed, and settled (once and for all? Or just added flames to the fire?) the ongoing debate about which is better: The Wire or The West Wing?
Basically, here at Tube Top, we’re all about the list. Who doesn’t love ranking and writing and TV reminiscing? We don’t not love it, that’s for sure. But we’re “bloggers,” so that’s what we do… the plot thickens.
What grabbed my attention about this article was that I spotted it in print on the front page of the LA Times Calendar section. Sure, it was a Monday (not a Thursday or a Sunday, the choice days of the Calendar section), but there it was, in print, nonetheless. I/we/the internet is so used to “lists” that seeing this list in newsprint, not computer screen, form, jarred me. Have newspapers always reported on “Top X lists”? Has the blogging writing style made its way into print media, and validated list creation as newsworthy?
I agree that the WGA’s Top 101 isn’t the same as “15 Secret Pleasure Spots” or “Top 10 Positive Things to Take from your Last Relationship,” and that overall the LA Times was reporting on the creation of the list in addition to the list itself. However, it’s an unspoken rule in blogging that “Top X” lists drive clicks, which is why they’re so popular on blogs. People tend to stay on your site longer and increase traffic with title baiting like this, so the medium shapes the message, my friends!
But with the creation of and reporting on this list, it appears that the reading and writing style of the internet is seeping into how we generally think about and categorize the world around us. The WGA didn’t create “best comedies” or “best crime dramas,” and award merit by subdivision. Instead it looked at a top to bottom ranking system and put Mad Men right next to Cheers, Star Trek by Modern Family, and more. Not that this is bad – it’s great that this list seems to recognize that good writing is good writing, no matter the genre. But the writing style of the blogosphere has changed how we think, write, and report about media, and with this article, has made the jump from an isolated writing style to a shift in journalism overall, and perhaps the way we organize thought, too.