Almost daily, I hear a neighbor, a cohort, a friend, trash
“I just cannot believe the open sexuality on Sex
and the City,” one might say. “They should
call it Sluts in the City.”
“I can’t stand Paris Hilton and her show The
Simple Life or Bam Margera or Ashton Kutcher, for that
matter,” another might whine. “All they do is
teach kids to be disrespectful and rude to people.”
“If I have to flip past HBO’s Real Sex
one more time…”
“The profanity, vulgarity, bad manners, bad writing
of it all. We’re going to hell in a handbasket.”
Okay, okay. I won’t argue with these points. Television
is loaded with junk. But every time I hear someone say these
things, I’m reminded of an episode of NewsRadio.
Dave Foley played Dave Nelson, the boss at the station while
Maura Tierney played Lisa Miller, his love interest and one
of the employees.
In the particular episode I am thinking about, Dave wanted
to buy a television, but Lisa constructed arguments against
it until one fine day she discovered C-SPAN. “You mean
you can watch the Senate in action all day?”
The writers were reminding us that while much on television
may be offensive, television can enhance our lives as well.
Imagine sitting in your living room and watching the first
man walk on the moon. Unbelievable. Or perhaps you watched
the fall of the Berlin wall. Heck, I’m blown away when
it’s midnight on Saturday night, and I’m watching
a world class musician perform. Someone like Yo-Yo Ma or Sting.
Or hear an amazing singer like Joan Sutherland or Norah Jones.
The History Channel, Discovery, a PBS documentary by Ric Burns.
Heck, some channels even broadcast college classes. And, what
we would do without the food channel? Eat that same old baked
chicken every night?
Like so much in life (I’m thinking about alcohol and
guns especially), the problem does not lie within the thing
itself. The problem lies within us.
How do we choose to use television? Will we guzzle all the
junk food we are offered, junk that appeals to our baser instincts?
Or will we exercise some self-discipline avoiding the marshmallows
and reaching instead for the wild salmon and baby greens?
Television is an amazing invention. It offers us the opportunity
to watch a speech by Martin Luther King or John F. Kennedy,
to hear Maria Callas sing, to watch Fred Astaire dance or
Mark Spitz swim.
I submit this: if you don’t like television, consider
what you’re watching. (And perhaps it’s time to
expand your cable package!)
My only regret is that television has not always existed.
What I wouldn’t give to see George Washington interviewed
by the Larry King of his day.