Have you ever walked into an electronic store and found yourself attracted to the vivid imagery and bright hues on multiple televisions? Though they serve no conducive purpose, they make the screens light up to make the shopping experience more worthwhile. Similarly, COVID saw an influx of changing habits of the masses who became more tech involved. People binge-watched so many shows that after a while, they wanted something relaxing and soothing that did not need their constant attention or the use of the mind.
Ambient TV, which is a term coined by ace journalist Kyle Chayka from the New York Times, aptly compares this to the Ambient music we listen to in cafes, elevators and reception areas. We usually like these songs during that time, but once we are back home, we forget all about them. They can be deemed as forgettable, or maybe we just don’t pay too much heed to them. So the question arises what value does ambient TV have in our lives? Does it have any artistic merit, or should we just skip it altogether?
Though many people are divided over its relevance and impact on the masses, it is safe to say that this kind of television has absolutely no harm. Though it may not serve the quintessential meaning of influential television viewing, it does offer loads of entertainment. Its biggest example is easy and breezy shows like ‘Emily in Paris’, ‘Gilmore Girls’, ‘New Girl’ etc., which have a simple storyline. In these shows, the protagonist always gets into small trouble and always fishes her way out of the situation for a happy ending. This actually provides a sense of happiness which leaves the heart feeling lighter.
Documentary-style shows like ‘Chef’s Table’ and ‘Street Food’, among others, showed a food heaven where each dish felt straight out of a savoury dream that had notes of lip-smacking fervour. They take you on a trip around the globe by providing the perfect concoction of beautiful destinations and their different cuisines become a visual symphony. These types of shows had a feel-good factor that did not need a constant source of attention.
Another type of example is the lifestyle and nature-inspired shows which sings about the sagas and the beauty that the world has to offer. Series like ‘Our Planet’, ‘Moving Art’, ‘Earth Moods’ and more will wash you over with their sublime visuals as you take a dip with sting rays into the ocean or climb the highest slope with snow leopards. They don’t have any plot, and all you have to do is soak in the richness of the imagery presented on these shows on various OTT platforms like Netflix, National Geographic and Disney+Hotstar.
The beauty of these is that you can easily do other activities like drawing, scrolling through your phone, doing daily chores, working and even reading. It can masquerade as filling the background noise with more effective and calming visuals and sounds. This can serve as an aid to combat loneliness or even to occupy the mind while being engaged in other activities. That is why each episode can be rewatched multiple times, providing the same comfort and coziness.
Critics feel that Ambient TV will one day become forgettable as it does not offer something constructive in the long term for viewers to connect to. But with its constant rise on the charts of popular streaming websites, the story is altogether different. Perhaps it is not hard-hitting that makes people ponder over the questions of life, but it certainly increases their serotonin level. This can lead to a reduction of stress and anxiety by providing a happiness quotient in the short term that can perhaps last only a few minutes or a whole day. For some people, that is actually enough to enjoy watching these beloved shows.