Thank Kardashians for good television

Photo by Tyler Meuter

The word ‘polar’ is a very useful term to have in your descriptive arsenal. It can be applied to many situations, from the ice caps that may one day drown Florida to other scientific things I don’t understand. What I do understand, however, is the polarity of opinions on the name ‘Kardashian’.

A great deal of people idolizes the Kardashians and touts the family as the epitome of the American Dream: becoming unreasonably wealthy by doing absolutely nothing. However, viewers are justified in their fascination: beautiful women made of 98 percent recycled material, an Olympic hero who now changes in a different locker room and the one and only Kanye West.

In the other camp, we have pseudo-intellectuals who see Kardashian fandom as a plague on American society. The prevailing mindset of this group is that the Kardashians’ ascent to America’s pop culture throne wasn’t based off of their own merits and is therefore invalid. Yes, the current generation of the Kardashian family may have gotten their fame quite literally from sex and murder, but I believe there may lie a certain level of jealousy in that. If it meant that I could afford to eat something other than ramen and Cookout, I would be naked on the internet in a heartbeat.

Aside from that aspect of the family, there is one major point that every Anti-kardashianite seems to miss; because of the Kardashians, and every other pop culture sensation like them for that matter, modern day television is incredible.

If there is one thing that all Tech students have in common (aside from a deep sense of self-loathing) it is that we all love TV. Between watching the beautiful Tom Brady lead his team of cheaters down the football field and pretending to study while binge-ing every episode of “Friends” on Netflix, we spend a great deal of our lives in front of the boob tube. The only thing better than saying ‘boob’ in the newspaper is the quality of today’s television programming.

Please don’t misinterpret that statement; I believe that on the surface, the television landscape would be a much better place without E! or today’s twisted bastardization of MTV. These channels regularly produce shallow, uninspired content and will continue to until viewers stop keeping up with the Kardashians. Due to their massive popularity, these shows have provided enormous competition to tried-and-true scripted TV. With viewers preferring to watch these low-budget cash cows, traditional TV were thrown into
a state of fight or flight. Networks were forced to either increase the quality of their scripted programming or live out my dream of being slowly suffocated to death by Kim Kardashian’s thighs.

Luckily for us, production companies decided to begin pumping obscene amounts of cash into their scripted programming. Before the 21st century, there were no big-budget movie-quality programs like “Breaking Bad” and “Game of Thrones.” These revolutionary shows are result the approach that if you throw enough money at something, it will eventually get better.

This trend is evident if you look at the budgets of recent TV shows. Most of the highest-budget programs of all time were made in the past 15 years. With greater resources devoted to scripted television, writers like Nic Pizzolatto (“True Detective”) and Vince Gilligan (“Breaking Bad”) are better able to translate their artistic vision to the screen. At any given time, you can see Hollywood-quality content from the comfort of your home.

This doesn’t just refer to the quality of the visual effects; the very structure of television programming is changing. The TV shows of decades past were mainly easygoing, shallow affairs that didn’t require the constant attention of viewers. If you missed an episode, you could still expect to fully enjoy the show next week. In today’s landscape, television has gone from simple entertainment to a marvel of storytelling and artistic integrity. Unlike films, which limit their stories to around two hours, today’s shows are able to span dozens of hours in which they are able to develop characters, build suspense and weave more complex story lines.

If this trend continues then we are only just entering the golden age of scripted television. Heavy hitters such as HBO and AMC will continue to add to their roster of ratings-behemoths, while basic cable channels such as FX are beginning their first forays into the world of high budget drama. And while Walter White and Jon Snow cement their spot in pop culture history, never forget that it was all because of the family America loves to hate.