Ambient Television

Kyle Chayka on the rise of ambient tv:

The ambience of ambient TV is often predicated on homogeneity; any diversity or discordance would disrupt the smooth, lulling surface. (“Emily in Paris” almost entirely stars white actors, too.) The lurking subtext of “Dream Home Makeover,” a kind of soft-white capitalist nationalism cloaked in throw pillows… In other words, the hypnotic quality of ambient content creates a false sense that whatever it presents is a neutral condition, a common denominator, though it is decidedly not….

Whereas the Internet once promised to provide on-demand access to limitless information and media to anyone willing to make use of a Google search, lately it has encouraged a more passive kind of engagement, a state of slack-jawed consumption only intensified by this past year’s quarantine ennui. Streaming companies once pitched themselves as innovators for offering the possibility to watch anything at any time, but do we really want to choose? The prevalence of ambient media suggests that we don’t.

February 23, 2021