When it comes to bumper sticker activism, there are all sorts of causes I have no trouble getting behind. You want me to save a whale? OK. To recycle or die? No problemo. I'll even smile politely about your stupid kid who made Student of the Month at some school I've never heard of. But Killing My Television? HELL TO THE NO NO NO.
Now, I'm a television lover from way back. Growing up as a latchkey kid, television was a constant presence in my life. My brother and I flipped it on after school and did our homework to the strains of "Scooby Doo" or "He-Man" cartoons. My parents played along with game shows after dinner, even tallying their "Jeopardy" scores with their own calculators. My brother and I filled Ziploc bags with flour and used an old briefcase to re-enact fake drug deals when we played "Miami Vice". The list goes on.
TV was a never-ending source of entertainment, and clearly a high priority. I recently found some of my old report cards, and it cracked me up to see that I'd used the envelope from my 4th grade report card to start planning out my TV-watching schedule for the summer. Aside from "Facts of Life" (which I'm shocked only rated a "maybe"!), I don't actually remember any of these shows -- but a quick IMDB search shows I had pretty amazing taste:
"Small & Frye" (1983): Nick Small and Chip Frye were a private-eye team with a twist. Frye had the ability to shrink to six inches in height, which gave him a slight advantage in investigating cases. One disadvantage was that Chip wasn't always able to control his shrinking, which made for some embarrassing--and dangerous--circumstances. Featuring Darren McGavin and Jack Blessing.
"Filthy Rich" (1982-83): When Big Guy Beck dies, the heirs to his estate are given a stipulation (via a pre-recorded video will) before they inherit his wealth. They have to live with Big Guy's illigitimate son, Wild Bill Westchester and his wife Bootsie, and they have to learn to accept the Westchesters as their own family. Of course, this does not bode well with the snooty Becks, and petty rivalries and catfights soon ensue in this sitcom spoof of '80s primetime dramas. Featuring Dixie Carter, Delta Burke, and Slim Pickens.
"Tattletales" (1982-84): Updated version of the 1974-1978 CBS game show, where celebrities and their spouses answered questions about each other and won money for the audience. Featuring Linda Blair, Tom Bosley, Lorenzo Lamas, and Roxie Roker.
I would so watch any one of those ridiculous-sounding shows today! Yes, TV can be a mindless escape -- but who doesn't need one of those?
According to that old school paperwork I found, it wasn't rotting my brain, either. I found some test results from the beginning of 5th grade (i.e., the school year after my pre-planned summer of boob tube indulgence) that said I was reading at a 7th grade level. So I guess highlighting sections of TV Guide every week didn't do too much damage.
Back then, of course, you were beholden to whatever happened to be showing on the major networks -- unless you were lucky enough to have cable, which we didn't, only because we lived way out in the country where it wasn't offered. But nowadays?
Nowadays we are in the REAL "Golden Age" of television. The viewer has more power than ever before. We canceled DirecTV months ago, only to have them literally beg us to keep them around -- offering us a lowered rate of something nutty like $10 per month. Still we turned them down. Who needs 'em?
Between services like AppleTV, Roku, HuluPlus, and Netflix streaming, you can be as selective as you want to be about what you're watching and when. Television is now something you can fit into your life however and whenever you want, leaving you plenty of time for reading those book thingamajigs, or talking to your spouse or whatever. "The Jetsons" taught us that flying cars are the future, but I'll take watching TV without commercials over a hovercraft any day.
Having the ability to watch entire seasons of older TV shows in one fell swoop if you want to is killer! Shows like "Buffy," "The Wire," and "24" are great to watch one after the other -- those overarching storylines come together in a really satisfying way when you don't have to wait a week between episodes.
Television's production values are higher than ever before, drawing more and more high caliber directors, writers, and actors to the medium. Just to cite one example, the most recent season of "Breaking Bad" is hands down better than any movie I've seen in the theaters in the last year. Maybe two. They may as well give ALL the Emmys to that show, then burn Hollywood to the ground.
But there's great trash to watch, too -- and I pity those who would shame people for indulging in it. So go ahead, don't watch TV, I really don't give a crap. Just quit being such a clichéd, pseudo-intellectual bore about it already. Deal?