Writing about Television: Advantages and disadvantages

No medium has more influence over the way we think about our world than television.

Even though social media is growing in popularity and movies are more prestigious, the average person spends more time with television and gains more exposure to a wider variety of messages through television than any other medium. The average person spends around three hours per day watching television, which adds up to more than a thousand hours per year.

That’s an enormous amount of time spent engaging with a relatively passive medium. Because of the tremendous power of television to shape our views of the world, writing about television has become an important part of journalism and academia.

In this article, we’ll take a look at writing about television and talk about some of the advantages and disadvantages of turning to television as your topic.


The Rise of TV Writing

Over the past two decades, writing about television has undergone something of a Renaissance. Previously, TV writing was mostly confined to newspaper reviews of new shows and the articles in weekly TV listing magazines like TV Guide. But the advent of the new Golden Age of TV sparked by The Sopranos in the late 1990s has turned TV into a prestige medium where writers have found new and interesting ways to spin analysis of TV series into grist for the internet’s bottomless demand for content.

There are a few primary genres of TV writing. The first is the traditional TV series review. When a new show debuts or a new season premieres, critics will review the program and discuss its major themes and ideas, the production quality, and their overall impression of whether it is worth watching. The second major genre of TV writing is the analytical essay or “think piece” in which a journalist will attempt to explore the deeper meaning of television and what some development in television means as a reflection of or influence on our culture. The third genre is the recap in which a writer will explain what happened on an episode of a show, typically within hours of its airing, and offer a reaction to the plot developments. 

All three types of television writing can be found across the internet. The recap was particularly popular in the 2010s, but it has seen a bit of decline in recent years as binge watching has transformed how viewers consume television. It is harder to write about episodes when your readers are watching at different times and often consuming multiple episodes at one time.


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Why Write about TV

There are many great reasons to write about television. One of the most important reasons to write about TV is that TV is directly relevant to the lives of most Americans, and it is something that most readers are interested in and can connect to. Because of that, writing about TV is a guaranteed way to engage an audience and to capture attention for your writing. A great writer about TV can use discussions of TV to expand into broader cultural subjects, educating audiences beyond the TV show. 

Another great reason to write about TV is that you won’t run out of stuff to write about. There is new television airing every day, which means that there is always something more to discuss. One of the big problems writers face is finding topics to write about, and TV does half the work for you by literally beaming new ideas right into your home every day. 

When you write about TV you become part of a broader cultural conversation. Much of our cultural life is mediated through television, whether it is direct in terms of specific shows impacting our culture or indirectly when politicians and celebrities play to the cameras and use TV to achieve specific aims.


Disadvantages of TV Writing

However, writing about TV isn’t all positive. There are some disadvantages to writing about TV. First, if you commit yourself to writing episodic reviews of TV, it can become a bit of a grind. While many shows only produce between eight and thirteen episodes per year, traditional network shows can produce more than twenty episodes, and reality shows can often run multiple cycles per year, sometimes airing multiple times per week. It can be a major commitment.

There is also still a bit of a stigma to writing about TV. Because of its history as the “boob tube,” TV is sometimes still seen as a lesser medium, and writers who focus on it are sometimes considered less serious or less important than journalists and critics focusing on movies, books, or plays. You don’t want to get a reputation as a lightweight if all your writing work is about TV.

However, as streaming services blur the boundaries between movies and TV and the increasing number of prestige series continue to dominate our cultural life, the old stigmas are falling away. Television writing can be compelling, illuminating, and exciting, and also a fun and entertaining way to approach culture through a television lens.