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Friday, January 8, 2010

Which half are you in?

Caveat: I wrote this rant then let it sit on my computer for a few days. I really feel strongly about what I said, but I have to acknowledge that it is somewhat sarcastic... ok, a lot sarcastic. I do feel television has value. There is no doubt that kids do learn more, earlier... and it can bring the world, and what's important, to our doorstep perhaps better than any other passive way. But that requires some judicious use, for sure. And television is entertaining, but again, it's what we choose to watch instead of watching anything and everything because"'that's what we do." Television is also insensitive, obtrusive, invasive, habit-forming, moral standards setting and molding. It is a 24/7 advertising machine. That said, it feels good to rant and rave and be sarcastic. After all, It's Nuts Out There.)

I was watching TV last night... and falling asleep on the couch... again!  I wasn't really that tired. I was bored to death. That was my fault for allowing it to happen... but it doesn't stop me from blaming the 'All-American Hobby' for my own weakness.

We have more than 130 channels of "entertainment" on our cable system (not counting those you can pay extra for). Of those, a handful are shopping channels. There are maybe a dozen sports channels of one type or another. Then there are the network channels, news channels, the animal channels, the Spanish broadcasting channels, the public service channels, kids' show channels and lots of other stuff.

Seems like 70 percent of the non-sports, non-news programming is made up of reality shows -- lots of them-- and silly 'sit-coms' all copying one-other, with most set on expanding our moral boundaries, game shows that ask questions and, more popularly, game shows that embarrass people, American Idol, America's got talent, Dancing With the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance... and of course, America's Funniest Videos (usually with different syndicated reruns on several different channels, five or six nights a week). Oh yeah, the reruns are for us to enjoy again and again... and don't say we don't.

Will weather actually happen unless it is reported on 30-40 of times a day... or on the Weather Channel where weather is not just anything -- it is the only thing? When I grew up, the weather still came, as I recall... maybe not. I was just a kid then, so what do I know? I guess I should be happy to be aware of possible fog conditions somewhere in California or rain across the plains... "so you be careful out there." OK, information is good and some can be critical, but wouldn't less seem like more? Problem is, if it were otherwise, what would the stations/networks have to sell commercials around? Also, weather makes a great 'tease' ... "Bill has some big weather news... and you folks on the west side, prepare to take cover... coming right up after the break."

We get three hours of the same news stories, over and over, every night... not all the news but pretty much just the news that the media thinks we want/need. Sometimes the media makes its own news by determining what they want to show us... who in Hollywood is divorcing and who is in rehab, how much weight Gerard Butler has gained and how Octo-mom is doing. Did Jon really leave Kate or visa-versa? And what is even sadder... we really do want to know that... and it is infinitely more marketable.

(Fact: Most of our next generation uses TV as its primary... and often only news source for its intellectual enrichment.)

Then there are the commercials and infomercials that take as much as 15 minutes of every broadcast hour.We are being 'pitched-to-death' most waking minutes... so much so that we know what one must do with an erection that lasts more than four hours.

Well, call me a cynic (because I am). I know that worthwhile programing and information is available. And what's wrong with being entertained? Television does have its value... but it has great faults.... but not the greatest fault.

That greatest fault is ours... and how we use/abuse this human magnet. (We have six sets in our house, but every room is 'wired' in case we need more.)  It is sad  that we often make the choice to let the television to be our primary focus... and our primary medium, watching anything and everything that is on. This is especially true at night when we have to confess to ourselves that "there just isn't anything 'on' tonight." but watch whatever, anyway. There is no doubt in my mind that television does a lot of our thinking for us. And THAT is the real kicker.

Most television programming is aimed at the lower common denominator... because it works best that way.  And if you figure that in the United States (or pretty much anywhere else), half of the people are below average... then presumably, you would think that those in the upper half are too smart to be helplessly held hostage by a stupid, unblinking eye. Would we?

Now here's the question: Which half are you in?

PS: For those 'on the other side,' there's a web site that might come in handy...

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