Clash of the Titans LI: Television

September 25, 2007, 12:15 pm; posted by
Filed under Debate, MC-B, Tom  | 4 Comments

In this corner, a television supporter, is MC-B!

And in this corner, against TV, is Tom!

We all know that television is a “vast wasteland”; I don’t think anyone would argue against the idea that television producers could use a little more moderation in the schlock they put on the air. Americans as a whole also probably spend far too much time watching television. However, we’re not talking here about trimming a few shows (including MTV in near-entirety), or a few hours watching the tube. We’re talking about whether television as a medium is good or bad. I believe that, as a whole, television has been used for good and has the potential to continue to be used in this manner.

First of all, for pure entertainment, television simply cannot be beat: it’s the cheapest close approximation of life available that is still relaxing to take in. As big a fan as I am of A Prairie Home Companion and the early days of Amos ‘n’ Andy, lack of visuals is a severe setback to their value as relaxing escapes from life. Sure, I can listen to them while driving or cleaning the house, but sometimes I don’t actually want to be doing anything else. Books are nice (easily my second favorite method for relaxing), but sometimes you don’t even want to read. Video games require active input on the part of the viewer and are not optimal choices for everyone’s relaxation. Television is the one medium with enough choices and variety to satisfy all comers.

More importantly, though, is television’s ability to inform us. Where would much of Bweinh!’s readership be without the teachings of Sesame Street? As we grew older, many of us made the switch from PBS to the Discovery Channel, but the medium bringing us information didn’t change. Not only that, but television news continues to be one of the most popular ways to get current, up-to-date information. On the morning of 9/11, where did people turn for the breaking story? Newspapers? No, they turned to television, and TV news delivered as well as could be expected on such a confusing day.

Finally, the following is a brief list of television programs and/or channels that I know are frequent favorites of certain Bweinh! users. No one person probably likes every one of them, but that just serves to illustrate my point about the variety of television serving us all: The Simpsons; The Office; Project Runway/America’s Next Top Model/Top Chef; MythBusters/Dirty Jobs/the Discovery Channel, and the Sci-Fi Channel. Look me in the eye, all of you, and tell me television doesn’t have redeeming qualities.

Television certainly has its drawbacks, but most useful things do. Television should properly be viewed as a tool that can be used for evil or good. As viewers, our viewing habits are our choice, and it would be wrong to blame television for creating some evil along with good.

By way of disclaimer, I am not completely against television. I have spent a great deal of delightfully entertaining time enjoying thought-provoking entertainment with friends and family. In myriad positive ways I have been touched, amused, morally outraged, and pleased by the oases of quality in the bleak landscape of television. However, taken as a whole, television has harmed our culture far more than it has ever helped.

Television encourages complacency. Comparatively speaking, it’s a lot easier to sit on your couch as entertainment is pumped into your home, rather than going out and seeking or making that entertainment on your own. Why read a book when you can have people more attractive than those around you act out a miniature play for your enjoyment? Why do something new when you can share in the experience of literally dozens of other people watching the same program you enjoy?

Even the rare occasions when television moves people to action, there is still a complacent stink about their decisions. The outrage in vogue these days, complaining of the situation taking place in Jena, Louisiana, is being taken up not by people who have thoughtfully examined a number of articles and points of view. Rather, a sorority sister will see a single segment on network news (presented in a manner to most provoke and incite the rabble that constitutes the average viewership), and join with other socially-minded nitwits to protest something they don’t necessarily understand.

Television decreases the attention span. A friend of mine recently suggested I read an article, because it was excellently written. Her paraphrased quote: “You should totally read this! I almost didn’t because it was so long, but I’m glad I did because it was so great!” The article filled a screen and one half in my tiny monitor, and if it had hundreds of words, there were no more than five. Anything not presented in a manic, quick-paced style runs the risk of being completely ignored by your typical person, and television’s ratings-at-all-cost mindset has a great deal to do with that.

In an era of failing schools, sinking test scores, and the prospect of a world stage upon which America plays a background role a very real possibility, I cannot help but consider television’s part in the slide. The few points of light amid the ebony backdrop of reality television, celebrity gossip, and lowest-common-denominator sitcoms cannot provide complete redemption. Television, I name myself your enemy.

But I’m still going to watch Psych.



4 Comments to “Clash of the Titans LI: Television”

  1. MC-B on September 25th, 2007 3:29 pm

    Is it demonstrative of your point if, after your first paragraph, a little voice in my head started saying “blah blah blah” and I took in nothing after that?

    Because that TOTALLY happened!

  2. David on September 25th, 2007 5:34 pm

    Eureka is on tonight!

  3. Connie on September 26th, 2007 12:41 pm

    It’s so funny that you said that Dave, because that’s the name of the show I was trying to remember that Tom is making us TIVO for him! Along with Pysch and some Monks…although he is the most anti tv kid I raised and likes to turn it off regularly for no reason.

  4. Steve on September 26th, 2007 12:58 pm

    I too turn it off regularly, since I prefer to spend time talking with people rather than watching something we don’t really care about. When I’m alone, though, I’ve been known to just let it run.

Leave a comment!