Saturday, January 30, 2010

Home Reno TV vs Garden TV

When I woke up this morning it was 16 degrees F. The strength of the sun was limited by the icy crystals suspended in the atmosphere. When both happen, my apartment is quite cold and I tend to want to leave the house, or at least my cold corner of it. In order to warm up I stood in the shower extra long. We know how the shower is conducive to thoughts, even silly ones, and I found myself musing on the success of home renovation TV shows versus the relative failure of garden shows.

It appears to me that gardening TV does not reproduce the experience of the garden or gardening well at all. Gardening is a total body experience, as it includes, rather obviously, the scents of the plants, but also the qualities of the air, the humidity, the sensation of the seasons, the breezes or lack of them, the feel of your tools, the minutiae seen along the way, and the big picture as you step back to take in your environment. The TV screen, even in HD, reduces the textures of leaves to murky green masses. The camera seems to only pan or zoom. The talki-ness, the bad music, and the motion all diminish our ability to dream while watching. This is why still imagery and writing manages to overpower video as the dominant form for gardening information. Its stillness and quiet gives us the time to absorb, drift off to dream, and recall with our powerful sense memory.

The home renovation show on the other hand succeeds quite handily on TV. Still images and writing are essential if you actually want to do the work yourself, but the action of TV moves viewers through a process most do not really want to take on themselves. After all, who would considering the loud screeching saws, the constant hammering, the clouds of silica dust, the dead rats in your walls, and carrying countless gypsum sheets? The TV program moves us through a several months or years-long process in a half an hour or a couple of episodes. This engages our dreams, our fantasies of limitless money and cherry wood floors without all the hard work, displacement, and time. We watch these programs for the experience of catharsis.

So that's it. Home renovation TV succeeds because we really don't want to and gardening TV fails because we really would like to!

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