Don’t throw out your TV yet

By By Ryan Shattuck and By Ryan Shattuck

By Ryan Shattuck

The following article is brought to you by CBS: “Pioneering the Anti-reality of Beautiful Women Marrying Unattractive Fat Men since 1998 (i.e. the year ‘The King of Queens’ aired).”

Everyone’s heard, at some point in his or her life, the more-pretentious-than-Frasier phrase “I don’t own a television.” This phrase always ends in “television” and not “TV;” a person too pretentious to own a television is most likely too pretentious to abbreviate.

I bring this up because I recently heard a potential employer proudly declare in a job interview — for a job I didn’t want — that he did not own a TV. Would I have wanted to be employed by an individual who not only ostentatiously informed others of his refusal to own a television, but was just slightly less morally superior than all 22 episodes of “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip?”

I’m not blind to the fact that millions, if not hundreds, of people have made the personal decision of not owning a TV. Having once worked for the Nielsen TV Ratings, the company responsible for tallying America’s favorite TV shows (including all 12 versions of CSI), I definitely understand why many people have become disillusioned with owning a TV. Why own a TV, considering that America was unable to feign enough interest in “Arrested Development” for more than three years, despite “Cops” showing no signs of slowing after 19? Why own a TV when the top rated television show of last year was the intellectually stimulating “American Idol,” while “Nova” placed somewhere between “Masterpiece Theatre” and a bowl of stewed okra?

We’ve all heard the reasons for not owning a TV: “TV is too manipulative, whereas NPR doesn’t have cliffhangers.” “Kill your TV, or at least send it to serve in Iraq.” “Nothing is good on TV, or at least hasn’t been since both Frank Sinatra and ‘Seinfeld’ decided to expire on the same day.”

In summary, TV must be bad.

But wait just a red hot commercial break! Is TV really as morally vacuous as “The Jerry Springer Show” and as worthless as “My Mother the Car”?

Philo Farnsworth, who invented the TV, was once recorded as saying to his son Kent, “There’s nothing on (television) worthwhile…and I don’t want it in your intellectual diet.” The man responsible for the invention that made it possible for TV dinners, “The Surreal Life,” and “The Rachel,” appeared only once on television, on “I’ve Got a Secret.” Despite this initial reluctance and disappointment with television, Farnsworth said to his wife years later, after being emotionally moved while watching Neil Armstrong land on the moon, “Pem, this has made it all worthwhile.”

This was of course followed up with “Pem, I want my MTV.”

Television was preceded by radio, which was preceded by newspapers, which was preceded by gossipy neighbors. While there’s no question that the human race existed comfortably for millennia before the inception of the television, it has brought with it the ability to experience and communicate as has never been possible. Because of television, the human race has been privy to witness incredible historical events, such as the first human on the Moon, The Beatles playing on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” the fall of the Berlin Wall, Edward R. Murrow’s criticism of the Red Scare, the international Olympic Games, inaugurations of U.S. Presidents, and Cher winning the Oscar for “Moonstruck.”

While television has recently come under fire for a decline in quality, it also continues to offer a wide variety of respectable and educational programs. Roscoe Orman, the actor who plays Gordon on the television show “Sesame Street,” recently gave a lecture in Salt Lake City where he cajoled the virtues of his television show, including the astounding fact that “Sesame Street” has educated more than 75 million children. One cannot discredit all television without at least acknowledging that many educational and informative television shows — on both PBS and other networks — have aired over the past decades.

The television may not be perfect, but like food, love, and the Internet, the key is self-control. The solution is not ridding oneself of television, but rather being more particular about the time spent viewing and pragmatic with the content watched. Because of the potential television has in allowing one to become more educated, participate in historical events and become part of an international dialogue, one simply needs to be aware of one’s viewing habits.

At the very least, watching television is an excuse to make references to “American Idol,” “Arrested Development,” “Cops”, “CSI: Dallas,” “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “Frasier,” “Friends,” “I’ve Got a Secret,” “The Jerry Springer Show,” “The King of Queens,” “Masterpiece Theatre,” “My Mother the Car,” “Nova,” “See It Now,” “Seinfeld,” “Sesame Street,” “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” and “The Surreal Life.”

After all, how else does one discover who shot J.R.?

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