Monday, January 25, 2010

The REAL Cost of Free TV

Here is a rant I hope you'll read and then take at least half way seriously. You see, naively, there was a time when I thought that by not wasting our hard earned money on the filth which generally dominates the channels of cable TV, I would be both saving hard earned money and more importantly, limiting the junk that would be broadcast into our living room and robbing family time we might otherwise have spent together in a meaningful way. I guess I'm just one of those folks on the lunatic fringe who believe there are more worthwhile ways to spend an evening than to sit for hours on end and be idiot-ized in front of a box.

So, with tin foil tipped antennas, we decided to stand firm against the grain. The only justification for owning the television was to enjoy the few educational programs on public TV and to perhaps watch an occasional movie on the DVD. While the plan has been largely effective, much to my surprise, the black box is an enticing and powerful force - not entirely dissimilar to the one I am typing on now. The point is weeknight TV, as it turns out, possesses perhaps an equal or even superior power to draw us in. While there are a few programs I admit are useful and even possibly stimulating, most of the so called popular programming I cannot attribute any serious merit to. Now, I am quite sure my saying this will incite the full wrath of any Weeknight TV addicts who happen to read this little rant.

That said, let's just say I'm willing to take the risk of the backlash, if only to make a minor point. Allow me now to offer up a few examples to reinforce my negative feelings toward television: CSI Miami (who could possibly take Horatio seriously…apparently no one since even CBS is offering $5k for the best impersonation of the dude), Ghost Whisperer (setting a whole new standard for the lame and melodramatic), then we have Lost (now there is understatement)...does anyone even know what the heck this show is about? It's more annoying than a run on sentence. Then there is Heroes which is like a cross between Star Trek and X-Men. Oh, and let's not forget the more serious drama offerings like: Desperate House Wives (aka gossiping, deceitful, backstabbing, lying, cheating, treacherous hussies), Cougar Town (aka even more gossiping, deceitful, backstabbing, lying, cheating, treacherous hussies), and The Bachelor (the MOST desperate, gossiping, deceitful, backstabbing, lying, cheating...) ok you get the idea. Heap upon that "reality" TV ad-nauseum, which ironically is mostly the polar opposite of anything even resembling real. Poke a camera in a persons face and we expect the result will be something real?? Ridiculous. Everything the camera captures is the result of careful editing, proper angles, controlled light, and tons of makeup. If you want real, turn off the TV.

As potentially amusing as these shows may be, they are just that - amusement. By definition, to amuse means to distract, divert, or engross. It is the idea of turning our attention from serious thoughts or pursuits to something light, amusing, or lively. Now, in my mind, so long as this is done in healthy proportion to reality, a light hearted escape is a healthy idea. However, when you consider that more than 15% of the average persons entire life is spent glued to a TV, it makes you take pause. Just think about it. If you took even 5% of that time and spent it on something like family time, it would be like having nearly 3.5 more years together. Still think watching that nightly TV show is worth it?


  1. Perfect post, Ben. Although I do enjoy my fair share of weeknight television, I hear ya loud and clear. Good post, well said, point taken.

  2. Thanks for the kind words, PeyPey...that was a little tounge-in-cheek, but something I know I needed to be reminded of. Anyhow, still loving "The PeyPey Chronicles"...keep up the work, you truly have an uncanny sense of humor; guess it runs in the family. Much love.

  3. I am late in reading this post, but I wanted to let you know how much I appreciated your thoughts. Right now we do have cable, but I admitted to Jason a while back that I enjoyed the few weeks when our cable was messed up because there was no television to take up our time at home. It is sad to think of how we essentially enslave ourselves to such trivial things. I think that I may just talk to Jason about whether or not television is something we really need to keep in our lives.