We spend half of our life with a TV and the other half without—by choice. Our conclusion is: without is much sweeter. Here’s why.
In California we have a TV, but we limit our use. We like to watch selected shows on PBS or the Discovery Channel, and of course try to keep our brains tuned up with a nightly dose of Jeopardy.
Then there are the current pop culture programs that we tune into sometimes: American Idol inspires us for two reasons: 1) we love seeing young incredible talent make their way to the top of the heap, and 2) we just love music. We sometimes catch Grey’s Anatomy or the Academy Awards just to stay in touch with what the world is watching. Sometimes an episode of Modern Family can definitely be entertaining after a long day. All totaled, it still only amounts to a paltry few hours a week.
We do understand the thinking (or lack of) about TV watching—there’s a place for just vegging-out sometimes. In a strange sort of way it does the body good to simply shut down with a mind-numbing distraction or two once in a while.
Then there are “reality shows.” Whether we like it or not, a profile of who we are as Americans can be gleaned or imagined from what is being offered out there. Sometimes we wonder if people could be watching some of the worst shows of all times.
During her annual broadcast in December, Barbara Walters revealed those she considered to be the “Most Fascinating People” of 2010. We were surprised that they were mostly celebrities, including the cast of the popular series Jersey Shore. The actors were less than entertaining. But America seems to think otherwise. Well, maybe the actors aren’t entertaining, but how about the characters they portray. Oh, wait. It’s reality TV. They ARE the characters. Then what’s so compelling about Jersey Shore? Youthful energy, risk-taking, adventure, stupidity? What?
We decided to see for ourselves, so we tuned in for a couple of episodes. It was like watching the detailed and grimy inner workings of one of the most loosely run frat houses you could imagine, except this one is definitely not located on a college campus. Juvenile behavior, questionable judgment and trashy humor are hallmarks of the show.
As a result of their outrageous ratings, the cast of JS are among the most popular people today and probably some of the highest paid. A few upcoming episodes are slated to be “on location” in Italy—what a shame.
Though out of his element, one of the cast members was included on the panel in a comedy “roast” of Donald Trump. Off the “shore” he bombed in a big way. His monologue was NOT funny, often ridiculous and generally boring. Nobody was laughing. Many fellow panelists were looking down, rolling their eyes or grimacing at the failed attempts at humor. Sadly, Mr. Jersey Shore didn’t seem to be aware that his bit wasn’t working.
So when did our wonderful American Dream turn into this strange and bizarre reality nightmare? And why is everybody buying into it?
Soon enough, we’ll be back in Italy where there isn’t even the possibility of a TV distraction. Italian TV is actually as bad as, if not worse than US, if you can imagine that. We will gladly slip back into evenings with our latest books, or just enjoy some good old-fashioned conversation. It’s a place where we can move out of the “reality” bombardment of programmed entertainment with all of its pre-packaged content.
Marshall McCluhan said many years ago, “The medium is the message.” It was his commentary about the influence of technology. Later, he transformed the original phrase into, “The medium is the massage.” He suggested that TV could “exert a gravitational effect on cognition, which in turn affects social organization.” We think he was saying that TV “dumbs us down.” Television certainly continues to devolve into one of the most famous masseuses of our time—kneading our minds into shapes and states we didn’t foresee. But, the fact is that the TV executives can only give that lulling, dulling, mind rub if we let them.
So, as each year goes by, we’re more and more careful about how we use our time. In California, as in Italy, maybe we’ll just curl up with a good book (or e-reader) instead of opting to watch TV. One thing for certain is that we’re going to steer clear of both the Jersey Shore and the on location Italian Shore—or whatever they decide to call it!