Suggest something unreal

For TV shows to work, they have to capture something real about home or work, but increasingly, in order to capture it, they have to suggest something unreal: far more face-to-face contact than most of us actually have. People text each other all the time in real life, but hardly ever on television. When they do, it’s just shorthand for a teenager’s distraction, not an important part of the plot. Texting doesn’t have the dramatic power of a confrontation that ends with an emotional resolution and a hug. E-mail chains don’t have the same resonance as sisters showing up in each other’s living rooms.

Even as we spend more and more time in front of screens every day, the screen we watch the most — the television — still depends on people, family and friends, who look into each other’s eyes with anger or love or desire. And however sophisticated technology gets, that can still only happen in person.

Sara Sarasohn