Thursday, October 17, 2013

Top 10 Reasons Why We Are NOT Giving Up TV This Fall

It seems like they come out more frequently in the fall. I suppose it is the start of school year and the feeling that things at home are out of control and you are craving some structure. Perhaps you feel that you can finally get your kids to turn off the video games, put the Pokemon cards away and yes, the evil of all evils, turn off the TV. Your friends FB feeds are littered with likes on articles about "How We Became a TV Free Family" or "Top 10 ways to get your family to turn off the TV." And they kind of make me crazy.

Full disclosure: I am a lover of TV. I watch every day. I discuss TV shows with my friends. I read articles online about TV. And maybe you are not that way. And that is fine. If you just don't find TV interesting or entertaining and would rather do other things, then that is great. But the people who write these articles aren't doing it because they just don't like TV. I don't like sports and you don't see me writing posts saying "10 ways to get your family to stop playing sports." I just don't like them and so their not really on my radar. But if you are going to take the time to write an article about it, it is because you feel like you have done something sanctimonious, or that you're better than all those rubes still watching TV. And you're wrong.

So I present to you, The Top 10 Reasons Why My Family is Not Giving Up TV This Fall

  1. Fall is the best time for TV. It gets dark earlier. Some days are cold and rainy and the kids don't want to go outside. And there is tons of new stuff to check out. Yes, most of it is crap (I'm looking at you Dads) and will be canceled in 3 weeks (Sorry, Lucky 7. You we're decent.) But there is some great fun stuff out there. Have you watched Sleepy Hollow like I told you to? Are you watching Marvels Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D with your older kids? (Wow - they need to change that name. It is a pain to type.) You should be. They're great. You think TV is lame now? My friend Daryn said it really well, "Every Fall season is full of failures. When a new season starts, it's easy to to think: Well, this season sucks. TV sucks right now. But every classic TV show was born (or grew) among from the pile of manure made up of every other terrible and/or failed show."
  2. As my friend Lisa always says, "It's not like those people who give up TV are out there curing cancer." And it's true. And maybe cancer curing is too high a bar to set. But we all have things we do to unwind at the end of the day and for me it happens to be watching TV. For you maybe it is playing Candy Crush. Or knitting. Or...ahem...blogging. At the end of the day it is all entertainment, and what is wrong with that?
  3. Your kids love it. I'm not advocating for unlimited access to TV and media for kids. Have some rules. Set some boundaries. Be a parent. But maybe I just want to finish my magazine article or fold laundry or take another go at beating level 153 on Candy Crush and so, yeah, maybe I don't care that my kids want to watch another episode of Dude, What Would Happen
  4. TV is not the anti-reading. But that is the argument one frequently hears. "I am giving up TV, ergo I will read more." But that is silly. The two are totally unrelated. I love TV and I love reading and I do a lot of both. They can co-exist.
  5. "There's just so much garbage on TV,"you say. And that is true. There is. So eliminate the garbage, not the entire medium. Did you catch Broadchurch on BBC America? (Not yet on Netflix, but I am sure it will be soon.) It was one of the most heart wrenching, beautiful, emotional shows I have ever seen. What about Parenthood? I swear it is like they have spies living in my house because it is such a realistic portrayal of, well, parenthood I've ever seen. Parks and Rec makes me laugh out loud every week. There's a lot of good, clean stuff out there.
  6. TV can make you smarter. The West Wing is what first got me interested in politics. Breaking Bad is one of the great morality tales of our generation. It's like a Jacobian tragedy. When people hear I have a son with Asperger's syndrome, many of them know about it because of America's Next Top Model or Parenthood or Grey's Anatomy (just kidding - no one has ever learned about it from Grey's Anatomy because I am literally the only person left on earth watching Grey's Anatomy.) I know more about dance and have been moved by beautiful dance performances because of So You Think You Can Dance.
  7. Why do we vilify TV, but don't do the same with movies or plays? Isn't it all just storytelling? No one would every say "We're really trying to cut back on films as a family" or "I just feel like we are spending way too much time going to the theater! We need to quit, as soon as we see In the Heights at HCTO because I hear it is INCREDIBLE!!" Art is art and yes, TV is art. And certainly there is good and bad art. And isn't part of being parents/artists teaching out kids what is good and what is bad? How will your kids know that Two and A Half Men is ridiculous dribble if they don't get a chance to watch Cheers or Freaks and Geeks
  8. The pop culture of today is the high culture of tomorrow. Shakespeare was low-brow entertainment, made for the masses. Dickens was published as serials in magazines and newspapers. Do you wonder what students from 100 years from now will be studying in their English classes? Breaking Bad? Call the Midwife?
  9. We live in the lovely age of DVRs, Hulu and Netflix. Remember when TV was only on at a certain time and if you missed it, there was no way to ever see it again unless it was randomly re-aired? When Topher and his wife were living in England, I remember recording hours of TV on VHS tapes (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, mostly) and carrying them in a suitcase (with a box of Cinnabon) across the ocean to deliver them to Lisa, Topher's wife. There was literally no other way to see those shows. Now you are in control of the schedule. So reward your kids with an episode or two of their favorite show when they finish their homework. Take a break after soccer practice and watch the next episode of Doctor Who in your queue. It can work with your lifestyle. TV: It's not just for sedentary people anymore.
  10. TV is better than it has ever been. New and interesting shows are popping up every day on network TV, cable, Netflix, online, etc. And now it's easier than ever to access an amazing back catalogue of shows that shaped the cultural landscape that we live in. So you don't just have to watch The Rules of Engagement because this is what is on. If you're not sure what to watch, start with some of the shows I've highlighted above (links take you to either Hulu or Netflix.) Or send me an email. I could recommend shows all day.
So don't click on those articles anymore about why you will be a better person for giving up TV. You won't. You'll be a better person if you immerse and surround yourself with interesting, thought provoking, beautiful, difficult, moving, inspiring pieces of art. And those may be books, or newspaper articles, or theatrical productions, or dance performances, or paintings, or lectures or movies. But they also just might be TV shows. And that's OK.

Special thanks to the Superviewers who inspired this post and made it possible. You are the Penny to my Max. 
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