Top TV shows of 2010 illustrate America’s Sense of Life

Americans like romantic, optimistic stories where heroes triumph.  This shines best through the top watched TV shows.  Detectives, special agents, doctors, and lawyers working for good and fighting for justice dominate the top shows of 2010.

People choose art and entertainment that shares their sense of life.  A person’s sense of life is their view of themselves, of the world, and how they fit in it.  In short, their philosophical principals.  Liberty, reason, individualism, and capitalism thrive in the US because they are part of our principals.

The top TV shows may not be high art, or delve into deep philosophical issues, but they succeed at entertaining with themes that resonate with the audience.  Entertainment is best when it is in harmony with our values.  At my house, we only watch one of the top ten shows below. But if I had time to watch another detective procedural, I am sure that my best picks would come from these titles.  In fact as a result of researching and writing this article, I have put The Mentalist season 1 in my Netflix queue.

Below are the Top Ten Prime-time Dramatic TV Shows – 2010 Season to date (Nielsen)

  1. NCIS
  2. NCIS: Los Angeles
  3. The Mentalist
  4. Criminal Minds
  5. CSI
  6. Grey’s Anatomy
  7. Hawaii Five-O
  8. Desperate Housewives
  9. The Good Wife
  10. Blue Bloods

In America, our top TV shows demonstrate that most individuals prefer heroic, capable professionals that dare and succeed.  It is not a coincidence that 80% of these shows are on CBS, and that CBS is the #1 network.

In stark contrast is Wallander, one of the top 2010 TV shows from Europe (Sweden and UK). It features a depressed, tormented detective who investigates dark and twisted murders, eventually linking the blame for the crimes to faults of society. No surprise the series was written by Henning Mankell, a Communist activist. Sense of life indeed.

Over on cable TV, which still has a fraction of broadcast TV’s viewership, the top dramas also feature heroic detectives (The Closer, Rizzoli & Isles, Covert Actions, Burn Notice). You will have to dig deep into the bowels of cable to find a nihilistic and depressing worldview. Shows starring sociopaths, violent misanthropes, and career crooks. TV Critics tend to gush over these those, but they only attract a small niche audience.

Heroic, romantic and optimistic themes have always been present in America, especially on TV.  Television is a very immediate and handy entertainment option, and is truly mass-market.  It is a better measure of the American sense of life than other media.  Literature and stage theater are not as ready to the average person, and niche themes and darker worldviews can survive there, like mushrooms.  But in our living rooms, with our families, in our daily lives, you and your neighbors share a heroic sense of life.

1 comment to Top TV shows of 2010 illustrate America’s Sense of Life

  • The sense of life these shows betray is one of desperate appeal for salvation. Their main appeal is to satisfy a natural craving for liberty with an illusion unattainable in the real world: the unbelievable law enforcement genius who uses violence to stop violence.

    I don’t see this list as positive at all. This is a bankrupt sense of life. The single positive aspect–this absurdity cannot be maintained for much longer.

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