The Conscience of Television:

Media trendsetter speaks on TED.com

Lauren Zalaznick, who overhauled Bravo, masterminded Project Runway, Top Chef and Real Housewives, began her TED talk with this comment:

“I actually believe that television directly reflects the moral, political, social and emotional need states of our nation — that television is how we actually disseminate our entire value system. So all these things are uniquely human, and they all add up to our idea of conscience.”

Zalaznick’s overview of TV programs begins in 1960 when shows that inspired viewers were popular. By 1969, she says, there are competing themes. Comfort, irreverence, and social commentary battled it out in society and on TV.

In the 1970s, irreverence and social commentary reigned. Zalaznick mentions shows such as All in the Family, Sanford and Son, and M*A*S*H. The popular shows of 1980s and 1990s focused on control and power, such as Dallas, and Fantasy Island. Another type of show focused on what Zalaznick calls “bubbles of humor”: Friends, Cheers, and Seinfeld.

Over the past 10 years, Zalaznick says, shows focus on judgment and interactivity where viewers can vote people off an island, keep people dancing, and choose the next American idol.

Zalaznick’s presentation wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the powerful role of women on TV. She applauded June Cleever, Lucille Ball, Maude, Alexis Carrington, Murphy Brown, and Bree Van de Kamp.

Watch Zalaznick’s talk on TED at ted.com. Search on Conscience of Television.

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