I don't really watch TV, but a few nights ago I spent a couple of hours watching some late-night programming. That TV has a unique power to draw the viewer in and not let go had been clear to me, but it was only then that I understood an important reason for that, at least for me.
<em>When we watch TV, we can judge.</em>
We judge everything, from kitchen shows to commercials. We make instant decisions about what we like and what we don't like. We judge without being judged, and, even better (thanks to TV's feedback-less nature), without ever figuring out (or needing to know) whether our judgments are right. For example, I saw all but the very ending of a show titled "24 Hour Restaurant Battle" (not a particularly imaginative name) where two teams compete to create a restaurant in 24 hours. The show makers gave me ample opportunity to make my judgments: this chef had a moment of panic here, that waiter tripped and fell, and so on. I ended up turning the TV off just before the verdict was given, and I realized that I couldn't care less about the actual result. In fact, I remembered, the show just before it, "Iron Chef", took nearly one hour to show me the competition and, subsequently, rushed through the conclusion in the last 7 seconds of the show. I barely had time to review the scores given to both contestants.
We want an opportunity to judge without the <em>responsibility</em> to judge well; and so as such, TV creates this little bubble, my own instance of the world where I'm right and nobody can tell me otherwise.