Television

Standard

Television is an odd phenomenon. When I moved here to the Roanoke Valley I found one of the TV stations advertising itself as “Your hometown station”, and one of the first events my wife to-be and I went to was one of the weather forecasters from that station speaking at the church in which we eventually got married. I guess I found it odd to think of TV being treated as a tradition. It hasn’t been around much longer than I have, but I guess that’s long enough to form a tradition. I suppose the idea of celebrity played into this particular event too. A person on a local TV station seems like kind of a small-time celebrity. But maybe that’s a whole different subject.

I had already noticed how hypnotic TV is. When I lived in a meditation center, children would suddenly freeze in front of the TV, and would have to be told to move. But I probably have a somewhat unusual relationship to the medium. That’s because my parents never had TV in the house when we were growing up. I think it was a conscious decision on their part, and a good one. There are a lot of things on TV that children don’t need to be exposed to. Not just violence or sexuality, but commercials, as well as shows that might as well be commercials, that tell people what it’s okay to do, or what they should do. A lot of the message is to buy stuff, and a majority of the things on TV are things you don’t need. Nobody needs to buy cars or clothes every year (unless they’re growing children), to say nothing of the kinds of foods and drinks that get advertised and seen on shows.

And when you’re sitting in front of a TV all day, you’re unlikely to care much for reading, which cuts you off from a whole lot of stuff, some of which is very worthwhile. Of course popular books and series often become movies, but it’s a pretty rare movie that’s as good as the book, let alone better. And game shows? So-called reality shows? The “reality” game shows I’ve watched  (not recently) seemed to demand lying and cheating to be successful. Not exactly what you want to teach your kids. I also caught part of a “Real Housewives” (I don’t recall what city). It looked like the women were obscenely rich, and only had trivial interests. I don’t remember the details anymore, but who wants their kids to see THAT?

At one point, after I started working for a living, I bought a TV, and got hooked on watching it. Just about everything. That was a reaction to not having a TV before that. And goodness knows I’ve seen some pretty good stuff. But nowadays? More channels, and less to watch. I finally decided to get rid of my satellite service about a year ago. I was paying about $100 a month for it, and because I work nights ant weekends, I couldn’t watch much in the way of sports (which I would have watched), and other than the CSI’s and Law and Orders, there just wasn’t much I was interested in. So sometimes I catch a little piece of something at work, but I’m not really in the TV world now.

I wasn’t totally out of the TV world when I was a child. I used to watch at my cousins house, who lived across the road from us, and at both sets of grandparents. I remember how far back Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Bonanza, and The Flintstones go back, and marvel that they’re still on TV, and that presumably people are still watching them. I suppose it’s kind of like my favorite books and records, but it still seems strange.

And when I (very rarely) catch part of a political show, it always seems like pure propaganda. There’s so much that seems like it’s being misrepresented. Particularly on the conservative side (I’ve never cared for the conservative viewpoint, and now it seems to be baised to the point of insanity), but also on Bill Maher’s show, which I used to watch sometimes. There’s a lot of craziness out there these days.

If I didn’t work nights and weekends, I’d watch sports, but without TV, and driving a car without a radio, I’m disconnected from sports now too. Eventually I hear who won the World Series, the Super Bowl, and all the other big events, but it’s not important the way it used to be. I suppose that makes me a real nerd, doing little for entertainment besides reading books. I can think of worse things to do, though.

Of course there have been things on TV I’m glad I didn’t miss. I, Claudius, on PBS back in the 70’s, was based on two books by Robert Graves that I’d read and enjoyed, and I thought the series was one of the best things I’d seen. Possibly even better was a movie of Eugene O’Neill’s, A Moon for the Misbegotten, with Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst. That was O’Neill’s last play, one with a lot of deep emotion to it, because it was almost autobiographical. I had read a lot of O’Neill, but not that play.

Of course, on a more mundane level, there were a lot of shows I enjoyed then too, and I’ve enjoyed some since. The Laws and Orders and CSIs, but also biographies of musicians I’ve liked. And the occasional science show. It’s not more than about two years ago I saw most of a program on William S. Burroughs, at one time one of my favorite writers, on PBS. Glad I didn’t miss that one. And I’ve liked silly stuff at times too. But it seems like now silly stuff is downright stupid, though maybe that applies more to movies than TV shows. I no longer have much expertise in either area.

Still, it’s kind of interesting being cut off from a major part of the media like that. Maybe it makes me more isolated, but I wouldn’t be too sure of that. TV can be as addicting and isolating as anything else. I’ve certainly had periods of watching a lot, and of course it can be quite hypnotic, which lots of people obviously like. It’s very good at building alternate realities. I just don’t care much for the kind it builds.

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