Inside My Tv Eye.......

Crystal recently posted a funny, insightful rumination about video games and kids. I would like to extend that topic into kids and television and ask: How much is too much? Did too much tv watching as a kid warp me as an adult? Do I need to shield my son from tv so that he may become a productive member of society?

Before I had kids, I was one of those people who claimed that I would never park my child in front of the tv. I remember reading an article about Helen Hunt,  in which she proclaimed that her young daughter had never seen a cartoon or Disney movie in her life. I thought to myself, “How wonderful! I’m going to be JUST LIKE THAT! My child will be so creative and outdoorsy, not some tv watching zombie.” I must have forgotten who I was for a brief moment–a total tv watching zombie. Ok, maybe not a zombie, maybe an afficionado. Enjoying tv is more than likely programmed into my son’s genes and it’s all my fault. I watched hours and hours of bad tv sitcoms growing up, which have filled my brain with tons of useless pop culture references that I can recall  on a whim. How I wish I could replace those meaningless tidbits with Keats instead!  Here is a look at some of the worst sitcom offenders that have permanently warped my world view.

1.Webster: Cute and spunky Webster is adopted by Chicago couple George and Katherine Pappadopoulos. And then all hell breaks loose. Kids all over America had to sleep with their lights on for years after watching Webster. Who remembers the doll in the rocking chair episode? Or when Webster witnesses a classmate being molested? Or when Webster’s favorite basketball player dies of a drug overdose? Or when Webster burns down an apartment building? Really?

2. Harry and the Hendersons: A tv show built around a totally ludicrous concept: A family runs over Bigfoot after a camping trip. They load him into the car, take him home and make him part of the family, where he dispenses advice with wry humor. Not only is Bigfoot real, he’s sassy! Were all media writers on drugs in the 80’s?

3. Mr.Belvedere: What every typical suburban family needs: A  snooty, British butler who treats them condescendingly while teaching them valuable life lessons, or VLL’S.  There was a molestation episode of Mr. B. that really freaked me out. So did the episode where Heather is obsessed with going to the Prince concert.  It was hard for me, as a 4th grader, to understand Prince’s ambiguous sexuality. To this day, I maintain an aversion to Prince.

4. Small Wonder: Just say those two words together to anyone over the age of thirty and they will cringe. A man creates a robot named Vicki and passes her off as his 11 year old daughter. She keeps the house tidy and teaches everyone VLL’S like Mr. Belvedere. Nothing weird about this concept, nope, nothing at all! That giant box she slept in standing up looked really comfortable, actually.  I just had a spinoff idea–Vicki and Mr. Belvedere move into an orphanage run by an archeologist Nun to teach the rebellious orphans some VLL’S. Then, one of those kids moves to Beverly Hills…..

I did watch some better quality shows, but it was stuff 11 year olds probably shouldn’t be watching. In junior high, my favorite show was thirtysomething. I wanted to grow up and be a cool photographer like Melanie Mayron, and I wanted to marry Peter Horton. I also liked Anything But Love, and it’s theme song. Anything but love, will dooooooo….

After reading this, you may surmise that from the ages 11 to 14 I was largely unsupervised in the evenings by my parents and I didn’t have any friends. Both are pretty much true. As I got older, my tv watching tapered off, which was probably a good thing. Now, I watch a lot of PBS and Discovery Channel programs. To balance all of that intellectual stuff out I make sure to watch The Bachelor and it’s sister show, The Bachelorette.  I have already cleared next Monday night for uninterrupted Bachelor Pad 2 viewing.

I’m not sure if I think tv is good or evil yet. But I do know that  the theme song to The Hogan Family took up valuable space in my brain that could have been used for solving story problems. Should I be worried that my three year old has the theme song to Caillou memorized? Maybe the tv needs to be thrown out the window…..


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  • So, clearly I probably shouldn't give any advice considering that I have been a television addict since I was born. One of my mother's favorite party tricks was having me recite the summer daytime television line-up for her friends and relatives! I used to schedule my college courses at IU just so I could be home in the afternoons for the 2:00 General Hospital slot. Hello, my name is Crystal, and I am an addict.

    I constantly struggle with this issue with my kids. All I can say is that we are blessed to live in the days of OnDemand, Tivo and DVR, where at least my kids can record and watch the shows that they actually care about instead of just sitting on the couch and admiring the flickering of the box regardless of what is actually on television.

    Now, they can learn to pick and choose how to "spend" their 60 minutes a day or we let them "bank" their time for a future longer day of TV watching. I just use the television as one of my many parenting tools for my TV addicts. Obviously, my life would suck if they didn't really care about the good ole' boob tube!

    Oh, and, Amanda -- great post! Good luck and don't ever forget about the most important lesson "Family Ties" taught us: No matter how you parent your children, they will grow up and be the opposite. Just have fun doing it and pray that none of your kids ends up like Alex P. Keaton.

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