After spending some serious thought-time with Pynchon’s “Entropy” and David Foster Wallace’s essay on TV and American fiction writers, I have noticed (in my own 6-hrs/day) that television’s relationship with irony truly permeates every aspect of televisual programming and that that relationship has only deepened with time. Where DFW referenced St. Elsewhere’s meta-episode, Pepsi commercials, and the emergence of SNL as significant moments for irony on television, I’ve grown up around shows like Family Guy and The Simpsons, which are wildly popular with mainstream audiences. 30 Rock (the most meta TV show of all time, apparently) was never a ratings darling, but it’s taken home more than its fair share of awards. Flip to the Disney Channel, and you’ll see shows like Phineas and Ferb and So Random using that same self-referential humor. It’s everywhere because it is the language of television.
I’m curious to see whether the New Weird would be able to find any footing on TV (or in some similar format). The genre blends elements of genuine grotesque horror with the low-cultural references of ironic fiction, giving it a certain potential for mass appeal. But the key to the New Weird, at least according to Jeff Vandermeer, is the author’s complete surrender to the material, “without ironic distance” (The New Weird, xi). Knowing how immersed we as viewers are in irony when we watch television — knowing how we’ve come to expect and rely on it — I am inclined to say that New Weird fiction is as good as married to its textual medium, given the average television watcher of today.
I guess the real problem I’m getting at here is whether we, as viewers, are capable of suspending our expectations on a wide enough scale to accept something like New Weird on our TV screens. Shows like The Twilight Zone (referenced in Vandermeer’s essay as an example of ~Weird TV) are not consumed in 2013 with the same genuine kind of terror of the original audiences — they are MST3K‘d. They are loved, but ironically (and at the very least nostalgically). I’m not questioning whether it’s possible to create a serial television show using the elements of New Weird fiction but whether New Weird via TV could ever be approached with the necessary suspension of ironic distance. Thoughts?