This is going to wipe out any chance that any book of mine will ever be made into a television movie (or as it is more commonly described, “a major television movie event!”), but here goes. Television is too dangerous a medium to take for granted.
For one thing, it’s the hands-down champion of time-killers. Have you ever heard someone complain about the fact that they don’t have time to exercise, read, take piano lessons, or whatever else it may be? Try asking them what television shows they watch. I bet you a copy of TV Guide that they are regular viewers of several shows. Television has become such an ingrained part of our lives that the idea of leaving it off most of the time is a foreign concept.
Back in the days when television was still new, comedian Fred Allen said, “Television is a medium because anything well done is rare.” (It seems only fair to point out that Mr. Allen’s successful comedy career was almost entirely on radio.)
His clever comment, of course, isn’t entirely true. Television is a powerful medium. It can show us the intense reality of a dramatic news event, recreate history, move us, entertain us, and educate us. Not to mention its ability, this time of year, to bring us nausea-inducing repetitions of political ad after political ad.
One problem with television is that, once you begin watching a program, it sucks you in. This is the case whether it’s a high-quality drama, a vivid historical reenactment, a sitcom that makes an art form of inanity, or a documentary on the 87 kinds of spiders found in a tiny section of the Amazon rain forest. You start watching, you zombie out on the couch, and the next thing you know two hours have passed and you’ve forgotten all about your intentions to take an after-dinner walk and then call your sister.
This is why I shuddered earlier this year at the announcement of a new television channel targeted at babies. The six-month to three-year demographic apparently was underrepresented in the market. The channel is commercial-free, presumably in deference to the fact that these kids don’t yet have their own spending money.
Its creators are quick to defend their concept with words like "educational" and "appropriate content" and "interactive." Hogwash. The kind of "interaction" babies and toddlers need involves playing with real objects and real live people, discovering that they can chew on their toes, and tasting the dusty leftover Cheerios that they find under the couch.
When our local paper ran an article recently about this channel for tots, it quoted one mother as saying she had been skeptical until she saw how her one-year-old was "mesmerized" by the programs. Apparently, she thought putting the kid into an electronic trance was a good thing.
This is just what we need—an invasion of baby zombies. Move over, make room on the couch, and pass the pacifier. Hang onto the popcorn, though. After all, everybody knows it’s bad for babies.