Some people say money is the root of all evil… I say it’s television. Really broad and bold indictment of America’s favorite pastime, I know. And I will admit to the hypocrisy of this post, as while I write this, the big screen is on downstairs, the little screen is on in the kitchen, and there is a TV in the bedroom (that fortunately doesn’t get that much use). And yes, I watch TV. Almost every day. And I kind of hate myself because of it. I like to complain that by the time I get home from work, make and eat dinner, I have no time left to do anything else, like cleaning, exercising, reading, etc. I mean, I really bemoan this alleged lack of time. But if I were to do some basic math on how much time I spend watching TV on an average day, I bet the answer would shock me. Well, maybe it wouldn’t, seeing as here I am already anticipating that it’s a lot of time. Time that I could spend doing all those other things I think I have no time for. And that’s reason number one why I think TV is the root of all evil: It sucks us into idleness. Like in all those scary movies, where poltergeists emerge from the blue screen and kidnap people, or little creepy dead people reach out of DVD videos and suddenly you’re stuck with some weird curse. You’re freaked out, but you keep watching, it’s so bad it’s good, fantasy and reality blur… and suddenly it’s 3 hours later and your derriere is numb from sitting on the couch while somewhere your sister-in-law is running her 5th mile of a charity marathon. You got sucked in, precious time was wasted. Laundry didn’t get done. And you were powerless against it. It’s the curse of television – it steals away the life you could be living while you are watching other people living their lives. No, traveling vicariously through Giada de Laurentiis does not count as living.
The other night we went to have dinner with my grandmother at her retirement home. While we ate, the Lawrence Welk show (the one they parody on SNL sometimes) was on the little tube TV behind us. What a blast from the past. Grandma Vera watches the Lawrence Welk show because she doesn’t need to understand the language to enjoy the music. We found ourselves bobbing our heads to the simple, happy, almost childlike melodies and lyrics. The silly little tap-dancing numbers made us feel light and carefree. Why isn’t TV like that anymore? Why is it all sex, drugs, murder, rape, blowing things up, and Snooki? Even the news can hardly be called news anymore. My husband calls our local news programming “scandals and animals.” It seems like people were different back then, too… more innocent, somehow. Was it art imitating life? Or vice versa? Is TV awful nowadays because the people watching it are morally and intellectually corrupt, or is it corrupting us?
I suppose television is just a business like any other – it is giving us what we want. Demand guides the supply. We want to watch people make fools of themselves and turn their lives into train wrecks. It amuses us when someone is dumber than we are, poorer than we are, fatter than we are, drunker, sluttier or deader than we are. And so the TV and cable execs keep giving us the good stuff – the Jersey Shores, the Honey Boo Boos, the Sasquatch hunters, the grisly crime scene investigations. Except that television is a business that, unlike any other, shapes our conscience – whether by simply reflecting society or by promoting a select few unfortunate lifestyles and demographics. And that’s the second reason I hate TV – it chooses to reflect the gross, the disturbed, and the abnormal, making it appear ubiquitous. It makes us think that it’s acceptable to have terrible grammar, it’s okay to feed our kids “Go-Go Juice,” and it’s totally hilarious to show your va-jay-jay to the world while falling off a table at a dance-club. Oh – and of course, it’s definitely okay to make reality-TV out of the above-mentioned depravity, because we don’t want to censor any “free speech” now, do we?
Sure, there are some decent programs on television these days, but they are few and far in between. And for that reason, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to watch less – a lot less – TV. Maybe I’ll finally finish that book I never have time to write.