More Television Thought

There are many people who do not watch television and use that fact as a way to show some form of superiority. I wonder if the logic goes something like this:

  • advertising is bad – makes us buy items we do not need
  • therefore tv is bad – it is a delivery vehicle for advertising
  • therefore no tv is good

The content of the shows can also be bad – too much violence, judgemental characters, poor social behaviour. Programs that show reasonable, happy people with no emotional crises probably don’t sell enough advertising. So not only is advertising bad, the shows can have a negative effect on the development of one’s attitudes to other people and society as a whole.

And beyond that we have television as a system to create what Alain de Botton calls ‘Status Anxiety‘ where television contributes to the perception that viewers are under-privileged compared to their peers.

Starting from a different perspective, television is just a box that shows moving pictures with snchronised sound. Like all media, it can be abused. If we can be thoughtful with our selection of the content we can gain from the television’s sensory experience. I don’t have a great list of content that I consider beneficial, but here’s what my family is viewing:


Both for adults and children, watching a couple of songs from a good musical keeps my 2-year-old daughter well entertained. She sings along and dances with the people on the box. Some of the musicals we watch:

  • Mary Poppins
  • Singing in the Rain
  • Jungle Book
  • South Pacific
  • West Side Story


These are intended to be educational and entertaining, opening a window up to other places in the world and exposing us to new ideas. Of course, the thought persists that we would be better off going to those other places and coming up with new ideas for ourselves. We do pause the show frequently and discuss thoughts that are provoked by the show. The pause/discussion behaviour is common to all our DVD watching. Sample documentaries:

  • The Long Way Round
  • Himalaya (or any of those Michael Palin travel documentaries)
  • Guns, Germs and Steel
  • Good Eats
  • History of Britain
  • Wild Weather
  • Life on Earth (or any David Attenbrough show)

And then there’s the…


…that we watch to provoke childhood memories:

  • Blake’s 7
  • Auf Wiedersehen Pet
  • The Professionals
  • Wonder Woman

I believe we are better off watching these shows than not watching them. Time spent watching broadcast tv is much more likely wasted time than time spent discussing how cool ‘The Professionals’ were to a 13 year old boy in London and its long-term effect on my personality.


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