And then my town got The WB. This occurred during my sophomore year of high school, which corresponded with season four of Buffy, season 1 of Roswell, and one of the later high school seasons of Dawson's Creek. About that time, I also started watching reruns of Party of Five and got embarassingly hooked on the Disney Channel, for someone who wasn't, you know, nine. And then there was Gilmore Girls...
In the long run, The WB was my downfall, because watching those teen shows taught me something very important about television: watching it can be a bonding activity. I rarely, if ever, watch TV alone. My best friend from college and I watched all of our shows together, and all of my roommates would gather to watch Grey's Anatomy on Sunday nights. My lab group actually sponsored One Tree Hill marathons, and as an undergrad, I used to go over to the grad students' houses each week for The OC. Actually watching a show is only half the fun- if that.
My freshman year in high school, back when I was no TV girl, I used to tease my friends when I overheard them talking about what had happened the night before on Party of Five, because I'd always come in on the end of conversations, and I'd be convinced they were talking about real people. As a scientist, one of the things I research is the way we view fiction and the relationship between empathizing with fictional characters and empathizing with real people. As a writer, I want to write characters that feel as real and immediate to my readers as the numerous 3-D television characters I've related to over the years. In some respects, those of us who write books have a lot to compete with. You can't actually see our characters. Nuanced emotion has to be put into words, and dialogue that would seem right at home in the Buffyverse might seem cheesy on the written page. At the same time, however, books have an advantage that television doesn't- complete access to the inside of our characters' heads.
As a writer, I've learned a lot from watching television over the years. Season 1 of Veronica Mars is one of the best examples of plotting and story arc I've ever seen; Joss Whedon's Firefly has remarkable characterization, and nobody does the supernatural-as-metaphor better than Buffy. For me, watching TV isn't just a passive process. I'm in a constant state of analyzing the characters, trying to get inside their heads, predicting what's going to happen next, and picking out my favorite pieces of dialogue to smile over at a later date. One of my friends prefers watching me watch television to actually watching the shows himself, because I have a tendency to get really... involved.
This year, I'm living abroad, and therefore missing out on the twelve or so shows I watched religiously last year. My college roommate/partner in TV-watching crime keeps me up to date on some of them; my mom sends me care packages with recorded shows on DVD, and my friends and I watch Heroes on iTunes every week. I also read comics, tear through books, and go to the movies as often as possible. I'm a total fiction addict.
So what are your fiction addictions? And while I'm asking questions, are there any other writers out there who've learned something about their craft by watching TV?