Oh, television…how we love to hate you, and how we hate to love you.
Growing up in a rural area in the northernmost part of Michigan, the big antenna that stood next to our house received three channels. One was from Canada, one was PBS, and one was a local channel that generally carried CBS shows. The CBS channel was the clearest channel we got. Canada and PBS were snowy all the time; any manner of inclement weather created problems. Even a particularly bad mood could create enough atmospheric interference to render those two channels unwatchable.
It wasn’t a bad thing, and I don’t remember feeling at all deprived or any more bored than any other kid. True, I never saw a lot cultural milestone shows that “everyone” has seen, like Gilligan’s Island or The Brady Bunch. The Daddy still becomes occasionally horrified when he uncovers yet another TV show of his youth that I’ve never heard of.
Given that history, I hadn’t been much of a TV fan for most of my adult life. I preferred to socialize; I felt that contact with other human beings was a far better use of my time and energy. “Human relationships are based on give and take,” I’d sneer haughtily, “and you can’t have a two-way relationship with a television.”
BUT THEN we got a TiVo. In the pre-purchasing period, I argued against it – what did we need it for? But in his infinite wisdom of all things electronic, The Daddy ignored my anemic assertions and got one anyway. Once it took up residence in my very own living room, I finally understood. TiVo freed me from TV schedule slavery. If I didn’t feel like watching something on Wednesday at 9:00 p.m., I could watch it Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Or 2:00 p.m. Whenever!
Me – 1, Bondage to Television Scheduling – 0
Furthermore, I no longer had to watch a single commercial!
Me – 2, Greedy Corporate Advertisers – 0
The final nail in the coffin was the first baby. For those of you who’ve never gone through it, there’s a lot of sitting around when you have a newborn. There’s feeding, and rocking, and holding them while they sleep. And it’s not just part of the day – this is a 24-hour-a-day cycle. Sure, you spend a lot of time just gazing at that adorable face, but you can only do that for so long. So what do you do? TV!
I learned that there really are a lot of great shows. True, many of them are geared towards the lowest common denominator, but not all of them. There are shows promoting creativity, such as Top Chef and Project Runway (I even watched those before baby brainlessness struck me). There are gripping dramas like Big Love, which I’m sad to say recently ended. Fun travel shows like Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. Spirit-expanding specials like the one we recently watched on PBS about the Buddha. Hilarious, gut-busting comedies like Modern Family.
So does all this mean that my intelligence is waning, my energy is draining, my high-minded ideals are dwindling, my creative capacity is on the decline? Does it mean that my thoughts and ideals are being replaced by those of one-dimensional television characters?
Television Brain Rot – 1, Me – 0
However, according to my (always questionable) math skills, that still puts me up by at least one point. I’d like to be able to say that I’m winning, but I can’t because Charlie Sheen ruined that word for the remainder of 2011, at the very least.
This is the opening to Big Love, which I felt was a work of art in itself. The song is by a band called Engineers; all of their music is just this enchanting. Even though Big Love is over now, you can get all the seasons on Netflix. And they didn’t pay me to say that. (Private note to Netflix: If you did want to pay me, I’d be fine with it. Call me!)