I love essays about cultural objects and movements, so I was expecting to really love this one. It has a lot of promise to it and, since it’s over a topic I adore, what could there be not to like? Yet, I felt that most essays fell flat and were a little outdated.
Title: I Like to Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution
Author: Emily Nussbaum
Genre: Nonfiction, pop culture, essays
Published on June 25, 2019 by Random House
s y n o p s i s
Acclaimed columnist Emily Nussbaum has compiled in this volume a series of published pieces and never-before-read pieces about the TV revolution. Her writing focuses on the emergence of television as a new medium, on the production of “guilty pleasure” and cult shows, antiheroes and heroes, fandoms, and everything in between.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy for free from the publisher via Edelweiss+. This has in no way affected my opinion of the book.
Emily Nussbaum is a really fantastic writer. Her prose is delightful, straight to the point, and sharp. In short, everything I look for in a nonfiction book. Her writing feels so easy to read, which is why I was able to finish this book in just a day, even though it is almost 400 pages long.
The way she digs below the surface also surprised me. No matter what show she’s writing about — be it Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Adventure Time, or The Sopranos, you can be sure that she draws some intriguing conclusions both about the characters and plot itself and about the way we as spectators perceive the whole show. It is definitely a strong suit of the book.
I also really appreciated how the writer makes no distinctions between high-brow and low-brow culture, at least in terms of quality. The first essays dive into why we call some shows “epic” and other shows “guilty pleasures.” She really explores how femininity, oppression, and ingrained prejudices shape our experience with TV. She is definitely not the only writer who has pointed these issues out, but she does so gracefully and elegantly.
Something that bugged me a little was how out-of-date some of the essays felt. The observations are still sharp and on point, but the shows Nussbaum discusses are not recent at all. There’s a lot of TV from the nineties, which I (personally) have never watched a lot of. Chapter after chapter of old shows made me yearn for essays about younger, more recent shows. This was a very personal qualm, so if you love nineties TV series, I have no doubts you’ll love this book!
All in all, I think this is a book you can dip in and out of with no problems. I felt somewhat lost reading essays about series I have never watched before, so I decided to just skip those chapters. And, luckily, that did not negatively affect my experience reading it.
Here are some of the Nussbaum she writes about in this book:
- The Sopranos
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Jane the Virgin
- The Office
- Sex in the City
Have you ever read a book like this one? Do you think you would like picking up I Like to Watch?