Why I Watch TV

As a cultural returnee to the USA, I found TV a very useful way to catch up. These days it’s hard to use that as an excuse but TV is still fresh enough to me to be interesting. I usually watch TV in background while getting computer-based work done. If I am fully watching TV, I want it to be pre-recorded or on commercial free cable. Commercials interest me but I want to control which ones I watch.

I went through a phase of not owning a TV for three years before moving to Japan in 1981.

In Japan I began watching TV to study Japanese. The dramas were pretty easy to follow even with minimal understanding of the language. I liked to use American movies broadcast in Japanese because I already knew the story so I could absorb the language almost subconsciously. I found TV a great right-brained way to study.

Broadcasting TV subtitles are not mandatory for television sets directed at Japanese consumers but I managed to find one. NHK was the leader but gradually the commercial stations produced more and more shows with closed caption sub-titles. This is a terrific way to study Japanese. Watching the story unfold, listening and reading is a great right brain left brain medley. I still have a collection of VHS tapes (I know, ancient technology) I made in Japan. Over the years, people would tell me my Japanese sounded “natural” as opposed to “textbook” which I attribute to the influence of TV.

I also watched Japanese TV to follow consumer taste. The style in Japan for commercial broadcast TV is to present a series of 12 shows that trap you in the story. While on the mission of checking out a hit show to better understand my customers, I would certainly get hooked from time to time. A show title that translated to “I Owe Her Money” was one of my favorites. It was about a man who falls in love with a professional money lender.

I found this method of studying language so useful that I used American movie DVD’s to study French and then Italian when I was working for Club Med and Barilla (supported by Berlitz lessons). The great thing about DVD’s is I can watch in French/Italian with English titles and then in French/Italian with French/Italian subtitles. The work days in Japan are very long but it is possible to squeeze in 30 minutes here and there. I set up an exer-cycle in front of the TV for morning exercise before dashing to the office.

These days I like watching TV in Spanish, which is very convenient in LA. I especially like HBO Latina because it broadcasts Spanish closed caption. Unfortunately it isn’t broadcast in Hawaii. I guess I am the only person spending time in Hawaii that wants to see it.

Why do you watch TV?

About Linda Sherman

International, multicultural marketing pro, Linda brings a distinguished background of international subsidiary CEO/CMO to her Social Marketing expertise. These include CEO Club Med Japan, Barilla Japan and CMO Wal-Mart Japan. Linda Sherman has been featured and quoted in Forbes, The New York Times, Christian Monitor and other leading publications. She devised and implemented an innovative guerrilla-marketing plan for ZIMA in Japan that produced a lasting, profitable success. Linda has hands-on technical skills in building and search optimizing WordPress websites and an influential on-line presence. Linda teaches social marketing for business at the University of Hawaii. Her company, The Courage Group, provides websites, digital film, branding and social marketing strategy and training.

Connect with Linda Sherman on Google+

Comments

  1. Wow, what a great idea for immersing yourself in a new language! See, if I had thought of that back in high school, I wouldn’t have had to half-cheat my way through second-year Spanish (I kid — and to be fair, part of the reason I was so unprepared for second year was that my teacher for first year only sang songs with us and had us watch English movies with Spanish subtitles. We learned nothing and were thrown to the wolves when the teacher the next year ended up being a Cuban refugee who spent a year in a Cuban jail before finally successfully making the trip by raft.)!

    I watch television out of pleasure, for information and also because I really, really enjoy the sociological and cultural aspects of visual media. As important as the Internet is and continues to be, television is still the BEST way to engage a large group of people in the same topic/show. Although as the options for viewing increase, total audience per show can become fractured, but television is still one of (if not THE) best ways to spread information.

    Although plenty of television is pretty awful (especially American television, though I have extensively studied European and Asian television series’ and their trends and cultural cues as well, and they are certainly not immune), I find that even the “awful” shows can offer a certain value, if for no other reason than voyeuristic entertainment or a large sociological understanding of a culture, or just out of kitsch. Of course, if a show completely lacks both value and isn’t entertaining in even a “trainwreck” kind of way, then I have no use for it and won’t watch the program.

    That’s too bad that you don’t get HBO Latina in Hawaii. We have three or four HBO Spanish variations (one for HBO and HBO2 and I think the same for the West Coast HBO feed), but I programmed them out of my TiVo. I might have to program them back in and see if I can try to pick up some basic Spanish via The Wire (which to me, is the one of the greatest television shows of all time and certainly the “best” television show produced in my lifetime — there are plenty of other shows that I enjoy more, but The Wire is so good it truly transcends the medium. It’s Shakespearean).

  2. LindaSherman says:

    Thank you Christina for a great post!

  3. I watch very little TV and very selectively. My pref is comedy. When I lived in Russia the only English Tv channel was CNN in the early 90s so we watched that 24/7 lol,

    Great post Linda.

  4. Coming from an online news background, I watch the TV news channels to see how they are playing up stories and compare them to what stories we chose to lead during the day. I also like the food and travel channel. Informational TV is the best. Other than that, TV is a time waster. Although I do like Japanese programs!

  5. I haven’t have my TV plugged in since November and I’m very happy without it. Sure, I miss Two and a Half Men and watching my VHS Tapes of When Harry Met Sally, but… not enough to plug it back in.

    I’ve never had cable in Chicago, so it has always just been WGN, no matter what show was on.

  6. While reading about your experience in Japan I remembered my Prague days, when I used to watch ‘Friends’ almost everyday: it was so weird to see Rachel Green speaking in Czech, but since I knew the story I took advantage of the limited time to learn as much of the language as possible.

    And let me confess that last time I was in Berlin I got hooked with ‘Verliebt in Berlin’, the German version of ‘Ugly Betty’.
    I kinda’ knew the story because the Colombian original version was a hit n Mexico, and then there was a Mexican version too.
    Even though as a typical Latin man I’d never watch a telenovela (soap opera), learning German allowed me to indulge myself and enjoy the guilty pleasure of watching how an ugly lady transformed into a gorgeous woman…

    Nowadays, much as I’d like to, I no longer watch TV regularly. Obviously I make sure to make some time to watch nice events, like concerts and award shows around the world.
    Lately, the American show ‘Heroes’ has caught my attention: it’s great and did I already say that of the actors, James Kyson Lee has been seen wearing Singelringen?

  7. LindaSherman says:

    I love the variety of attitude, usership and experience expressed in the comments from Christina, Shashi, Shawn, Leah and Jesús. Thank you so much for your input.

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  2. […] LindaSherman put an intriguing blog post on Why I Watch TVHere’s a quick excerptIn Japan I began watching TV to study Japanese. The dramas were pretty easy to follow even with minimal understanding of the language. I liked to use American movies broadcast in Japanese because I already knew the story so I could … […]

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