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Television. The boob tube. The idiot box. Everyone knows that the decline and fall of Western Civilization can be directly linked to television watching. It presents only lowest common denominator entertainment which causes anyone who views its offerings regularly to suffer a startling loss of intellect. Right?

Well what if I were to tell you that not only do I not agree with the above assessment, but that more than that I personally credit television shows I've watched both growing up, and today as an adult with having a profound impact upon my development as a person. Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Personally I believe that when done right, television can help people grow and develop by exposing them to representations of types of people that they might no get direct exposure to, and it can expose them to ideas that they might never have exposure to any other way.

To TV Or Not TV?

I'm the first to admit that I was part of a transitional generation. When I grew up we had only one television in the house until I was well into my teens, and for a number of years we did not have cable. When I was a kid television viewing was largely restricted to evenings and of course weekends. It wasn't until moving to another less remote town and cable becoming increasingly ubiquitous that I was thrust into the world of television as a constant presence. Today it seems to me that many young people have grown up with television as a constant presence, and perhaps without being given the tools to watch even a little bit critically. The point of this article however is not to speak to that. I am writing about my very personal relationship with television especially certain shows that I credit with having played a central part in shaping my development as a person.  These shows will be offered in no particular order save as I happen to think of them. First we'll start with the one TV show that not only spawned a cultural phenomenon but is responsible above all others for the development of my moral sensibilities...

Star Trek

Like many kids what first drew me to Star Trek was the bright almost garish (by today's standards) colors, and stories that usually managed to be simple without being simplistic. Looking back I can see very clearly that Trek was shaping my way of looking at the world.  With messages like, "The unknown is to be explored and delighted in not feared", and "No one is so important that they can't apologize when they are wrong", it is thanks to Star Trek that I have been able to avoid the pitfalls of racism, homophobia, and transphobia that so many young people from rural working class backgrounds end up falling into. Frankly I could spend this entire article writing just about Star Trek, but since the purpose is to talk about television in general not Star Trek in particular I shall stop here and move on to the next show. One which in it's own way had almost as much influence as Star Trek did, and all thanks to one singular episode.

The Addams Family

What kid in their right mind wouldn't want to live with the Addamses? The kids were friendly without being saccharine, the adults were both loving and fun loving. And the house was just... Neat! But beyond that was the fundamental message of the Addams Family. "It's not only 'okay' to be strange but strange is the best way to be." This is best exemplified in the episode titled, "The Addams Meet A Beatnik". Basically a young motorcycle riding man crashes into the Addams home and is injured. He is nursed back to health and embraced by the family who while they don't entirely understand him, don't feel they need to. They simply accept him for who and what he is. With no judgment and no rejection. Who among us doesn't long for that?

It was thanks to those two shows that much of my early beliefs were formed, but as I grew older I gravitated towards other shows. Shows that while no less engaging were perhaps a bit more nuanced. One of those I credit for teaching me a very very important lesson about war.

M*A*S*H

Another show with so much to teach. It was from MASH that I learned the very simple lesson that there is no such thing as a good war. Period. It was from MASH and the character of Father Mulcahey that I learned that other cultures beliefs were things to be respected and celebrated not dismissed or demeaned. It was from Charles Emerson Winchester the third I learned the value of having confidence in yourself regardless of what others thought of you. It was from Hawkey Pierce that I learned compassion. And it was from Major Margaret Houlihan that I began to understand that a woman could be every bit as competent as a man in any field of endeavor. Meanwhile from another show, one that many claims glorifies war, I learned a very important lesson even if it may have not been the lesson that was intended.

GI Joe: A Real American Hero

A cartoon that was all about an international peace keeping force fighting against the terrorist group Cobra. There are many who claim that GI Joe glorifies militarism and violence, and those are not invalid charges to level against the show. But that's not what I saw. I saw men and women in service of an ideal. The ideal of safeguarding not just America, but the world from those who would harm others for no reason other than that they could. And they did it cleanly. The Joes did not fight dirty, they did not torture, they did not kill civilians. They were heroes. Now today I know that life is messy and inexact and sometimes moral compromises must be made. But I still tend to hold things up to the standard taught to me by GI Joe, and am not terribly keen on anything that falls too far short of that standard.

Meanwhile as I was growing up like most people I was trying to come to terms with my gender and looking for role models who could on the one hand reflect who I felt I was but at the same time give me an example to strive for. It would be thanks to a science fiction show with a time travel gimmick that I would meet one of the characters that to this day I consider a huge role model.

Quantum Leap

Dr. Sam Beckett. Inventor of the Quantum Leap accelerator which allowed him to travel through time by inhabiting other people's bodies.  Sam was a different kind of man compared to what was the norm for a television show with an action bent to it. He was thoughtful and soft spoken. Never crass towards women. This was someone who truly considered his words before he spoke and strove to be something more than a knuckle dragging caveman. Watching him I often felt like I was watching a brother self. Here was someone who understood the kind of macho nonsense that was expected of him and was willing to buck the status quo (often represented by his observer and friend Al) and be the kind of man he wanted to be, not the kind he was expected to be.

This is just a small sampling of shows that had an impact on me. Nor is the impact of television shows limited to shows I watched growing up. Even today there are shows that are helping to shape who I am as a person. One recent favorite has even helped make me more comfortable around people of color.

The Wire

The Wire is from David Simon, a former reporter and author who's book Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets, was adapted into the brilliant television series, Homicide: Life On The Street.

The Wire is like Homicide based loosely on Simon's books, both Homicide and his follow up The Corner, and also his years as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun. Baltimore is a city with a very prominent African American population, and The Wire reflects that fact. It's not unusual for there to be entire long scenes wherein only persons of color are on the screen.

Now I'm not going to lie. I grew up in a fairly racially non mixed small town. Even with an "Indian" reservation within a twenty minute drive from where I lived I still on a typical day encountered far more white people than non white. I like to think that I'm not a racist, but if I'm honest I would be the first to say that I am not always comfortable being the only white person in a room full of persons of color.

Thanks to shows like The Wire though when I encounter people of color either individually or in groups I have found it much easier to simply deal with them as people, and not become uncomfortable at the obvious differences between themselves and myself. I credit this increasing comfortability to a television show.

To be honest I doubt that it will be the last time that I will find my values and beliefs shaped very much for the better by TV.

Keep The Faith My Brothers And Sisters!

Originally posted to Toriach on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 05:29 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This was the TV program (23+ / 0-)

    that made me what I am today:

    Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað

    by milkbone on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 06:02:52 PM PDT

  •  Robin Hood and the Defenders (8+ / 0-)

    2 progressive 60's shows.

    Robin Hood writers, the show being produced in the UK,  included a number who'd fled the Hollywood red scare blacklist.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 06:17:52 PM PDT

  •  That Episode of The Addams Family (9+ / 0-)

    I forget why, but I was just thinking about that episode with the James Dean type on the motorcycle the other day.  I agree, it's one of the good ones.

    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 06:18:57 PM PDT

  •  Any Situation In Life Can Be Explained By..... (19+ / 0-)

    An episode of "Star Trek."

    Stephen Fry has made the point that "Star Trek" has connections to Friedrich Nietzsche's belief that artistic tragedy is born out of the conflict between the Dionysian and Apollonian impulses from Greek mythology.


    The dynamic between Kirk, Spock & McCoy is also the perfect example of the "Freudian Power Trio," with each representing an aspect of the human psyche as defined by Sigmund Freud:

    • Kirk: [Ego]
    • Spock: [Superego]
    • McCoy [Id]
    •  the three Star Trek characters carry on in (9+ / 0-)

      the later series, as well.

      Picard, Data and Ryker.  Janeway, Tuvok and Kess.  Sisko, Odo and Kira.

      One of the reasons why I think all of the latest Star Trek movies suck is because that character interplay is no longer there---now it's all about CGI and explosions and FX.  

    •  The Outsider (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlackSheep1, bigjacbigjacbigjac

      I believe one reason that Star Trek appeals so much to teens is because it deals so constructively with the theme of The Outsider. Spock, Data, Odo and Seven of Nine were all one-of-a-kinds, alone in the Universe (well, until Lore showed up, and he got killed off). Most of us feel like Outsiders - alone and impossible for the "normals" to understand - at some point in our youth. Star Trek taught us that we can be Outsiders and still thrive and be valued. I suspect STE failed because it didn't have a great Outsider Figure as part of the cast.

      Also let;s have a shout-out for All in the Family. Its humor helped many American families deal with the challenges of overcoming sexism and racism.

      Democracy - Not Plutocracy!

      by vulcangrrl on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 06:01:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I dunno, I think ST:E went down because (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bigjacbigjacbigjac

        frankly the suits at Paramount got too greedy to pay attention to not oversaturating the market -- especially with less-than-stellar (pun intended) storylines.

        They put out "Star Trek: Nemesis," the crappiest storyline for a film since "Star Trek: First Contact," which deconstructed the whole myth of the discovery of warp drive and Zefram Cochrane as basically a nice guy (a 60s-style nice guy).

        What bugs me about this is, I loved Scott Bakula as the Enterprise captain -- and I loved their Doctor. Their Vulcan was a little "meh", but their engineer was the first one as much of a doll as Scotty in all the later incarnations.

        But then, Seven of Nine was never my cuppa, either ... although, honestly, it's not the actress -- she's great in other things I've seen, like Leverage (chick can kick booty) and Body of Proof...I do think it was the costume/writing.

        JJ Abrams' movies are Star Trek: Die Hard, or something. They got McCoy spot-on right, but their Scotty, frankly, is a disappointment, their Kirk is absolutely the opposite of the one I grew to love watching Shatner, and their Chekov is a bad (really, seriously, bad; worse than a camp sendup) joke. Their Uhura is a cute chick, but not nearly as badass as Nichelle Nichols' Uhura, and that storyline between her and Spock is just ... wrong. Especially given the TOS storyline between Chapel and Spock. (Which reminds me, where the hell are Yeoman Rand and Nurse Chapel in this new timeline? Gone, evidently.) Also, their Sulu? No, man, that's just bad casting. If you're eliminating the other female leads, why not bring in a female navigator? After all, in the original Trek pilot, Roddenberry cast a woman as the first officer!

        LBJ, Lady Bird, Van Cliburn, Ike, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

        by BlackSheep1 on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 08:08:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I learned about classical music from Bugs Bunny (25+ / 0-)

    The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy;the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness

    by CTMET on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 06:36:05 PM PDT

  •  I would add "Emergency" to the list of shows that (12+ / 0-)

    had a positive public impact.

    Before Jack Webb more or less spun off Adam-12 into the fire service very few knew what a paramedic was. This show pointed to the need to have trained first responders at the scene as quick as possible. It is my belief that one show made it possible for the tax increases needed to better train and equip fire departments to save lives, rather then recover the dead. I am old enough to remember the time a "Ambulance" was a repainted Hurst.

    Now days with cuts to local budgets it look like that is where  we are headed to once again.

    Just to be up front: I use to be a on call FF.

  •  The Twilight Zone (24+ / 0-)

    The only way Rod Serling could get his progressive ideas onto television was to set them in science fiction stories.

    The great writing made up for the incredibly small budget the series had to work with.

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 07:30:04 PM PDT

  •  Star Trek (16+ / 0-)

    influenced entire generations. But the first one was what got me. I saw diversity, compassion and competence displayed in a setting that made me dream of a better future. We're not the only ones, either. Those gadgets... why do you think we have smart phones, laptops and tablets? ;)

    Thank your stars you're not that way/Turn your back and walk away/Don't even pause and ask them why/Turn around and say 'goodbye'/Just wish them well.....

    by Purple Priestess on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 08:07:32 PM PDT

  •  I quit television 27 years ago, (5+ / 0-)

    and I feel I've been much the better for it. Friends ask me, "How do you get so much done?" Simple, I don't watch the tube.

    Marx said that religion was the opiate of the people. In my view, television has taken the place of religion. In Marx's time, and until the past few decades, people came together in one sort of physical fellowship or another, in clubs, unions, parties, movements and such. Television has destroyed most of that, by giving a false sense of fellowship where no actual fellowship exists. Television has "alienated" the working people, far more effectively than religion.

    If television made me the man I am today, I would be a crippled, anti-social wreck, with no concept of how to advance to a revolution against the powers that direct the propaganda that drag us down to worker/slaves.

    -8.38, -7.74 My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. - Jack Layton

    by Wreck Smurfy on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 08:17:44 PM PDT

    •  I have trouble getting anything done, (7+ / 0-)

      because of Daily Kos.

      Especially,
      in a situation like this,
      in which the diarist and I and some others
      are saying one thing,
      and a commentor,
      you,
      are firmly stating another thing,
      and the old feeling kicks in,
      expressed so well in the cartoon I'm sure you've seen,
      in which the wife calls to the husband,
      "Come to bed!"
      and the husband answers,
      "No, this is important:
      someone is wrong on the internet!"

       If television made me the man I am today, I would be a crippled, anti-social wreck, with no concept of how to advance to a revolution against the powers that direct the propaganda that drag us down to worker/slaves.  
       

      I simply don't understand what has ever been broadcast on TV,
      that would tend to make anyone
      crippled,
      anti-social,
      and with no sense of a need
      for a revolution
      against the powers that be.

      In many shows of the seventies,
      the little guy would fight back
      against the wealthy and powerful,
      and,
      often,
      would win,
      maybe because the wealthy and powerful
      didn't want to look bad to their customers.

      If anything,
      that story line would make a person overly optimistic,
      thinking that fighting the wealthy and powerful
      is not that hard,
      when it is,
      in the real world.

      Anyway.

      I'm firmly in agreement with the diarist,
      and firmly in disagreement with you.

      However,
      one point you make,
      seems correct,
      but may be wrong as well:

        In Marx's time, and until the past few decades, people came together in one sort of physical fellowship or another, in clubs, unions, parties, movements and such. Television has destroyed most of that, by giving a false sense of fellowship where no actual fellowship exists. Television has "alienated" the working people, far more effectively than religion.

      If fellowship is never created
      without direct contact,
      you are correct.

      However,
      maybe fellowship can be built
      by millions watching Star Trek,
      then,
      as life is lived,
      ideals learned there are lived out.
      Showing that the fellowship was forged,
      by way of TV.

      What is America?

      What makes us Americans?

      Whatever we share.

      If most Americans watch certain TV shows and movies,
      and you don't,
      you may be less of an American,
      not so much part of the club.

      I'm already fading out, myself,
      since I hate vampire shows.

      But I'm watching the last Twilight movie,
      that my wife just rented,
      since she's more in tune with America than I.

      I agree,
      if the standard American way of thinking is wrong,
      and TV teaches it,
      then it's all a disaster.

      But the biggest problem is that we're running out of oil,
      and the failure to announce that
      is caused by ignorance,
      wishful thinking,
      and the profit motive.

      I haven't read the book about the right wing noise machine,
      but until I learn the details,
      I will feel that the right wing does not control all media;
      there is no all encompassing conspiracy,
      with the wealthy and powerful
      using TV
      to keep their power,
      except for the obvious Fox News and such.

      Seems to me.

      •  A problem of not watching; (8+ / 0-)

        "Did you see American Idol last night?"
        "I don't watch much tv, just stream a few documentaries on my computer when I'm sick."
        "Oh."

        (pause)

        "I just went out to a foreclosed and vacant house and picked probably three bushels of peaches off their tree. We'll peel peaches tonight, and I'll start peach butter cooking before I go to bed, and I'll can it up tomorrow."

        "Wow. I wish I could do stuff like that. I like your cape. Where'd you get it?"

        "I made it."

        Silence.

        I find myself more and more cut off from a society where you talk about what you saw on TV, and what useless toys you want to spend money on.

        When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

        by Alexandra Lynch on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 10:31:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I rec and give positive response to you, (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          LinSea, Steve Canella

          not the comment above,
          since the comment above accused TV
          of harming us.

          You do other things,
          and miss the most popular shows.

          You could make clothing with the TV on in the room,
          listening and glancing up at times.

          You picked three bushels of peaches;
          I hung up sixty washcloths on the clothesline in the back yard,
          and took them down the next day,
          and now I need to fold them,
          unless my wife folds them,
          as she watches TV.

          And I work full time at Walmart.

          And I cook and wash dishes.

          I need to cook some eggs soon.

          I don't talk about American Idol,
          I don't watch it.

          And on Walmart pay,
          how many toys can I buy?

          TV is great.

          And it's a waste of time,
          depending on your situation,
          depending on what you watch.

          My wife's been watching Ru Paul's Drag Race lately.

          Interesting.

          It increases sensitivity to drag queens,
          and gay men,
          and trans folk.

          TV is great.

    •  The full quote, according to Wikipedia... (6+ / 0-)

      is "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people"."

  •  Dude (18+ / 0-)

    All in the Family...dealing with SO many issues so perfectly


    Dr. Who:

    Just say "NO!"

    Don't Blink!

    Let's Kill Hitler:

    Mary Tyler Moore:

    WKRP:

    FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. NYC's Progressive/Reform Blog

    by mole333 on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 08:31:13 PM PDT

  •  Loved Quantum Leap (10+ / 0-)

    Sam had to empathize with everyone whose body he suddenly inhabited, not knowing in advance who it might be - could be any age or race (the era had to be within his lifetime, so 1950s onward).
    In my favorite episode he inhabited the body of a young woman. His (4-times-divorced) best friend Al felt a great deal of discomfort realizing that  he was romantically attracted to Sam as a woman. Then he was counseled that "part of friendship is love" and thus it was natural to feel that way when seeing his best friend as a woman, albeit temporarily.

    •  dinazina: Quantum Leap might've been the last (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bigjacbigjacbigjac

      great pool of progressive ideas on "mainstream" television.

      I hate NBC with a burning passion for killing it -- like they killed ST:TOS.

      Moneygrubbing uckers ....

      LBJ, Lady Bird, Van Cliburn, Ike, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

      by BlackSheep1 on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 08:12:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I agree, I agree, I agree! TV is one of the best (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LinSea, draba, Steve Canella

    things to happen to me.

    The only thing bad about TV in the sixties,
    was the same problem I had in my real life in the sixties:

    Life was too easy for me,
    no serious problems at all.

    Leave it to beaver
    was a show about my younger brother and I,
    except we had three older sisters.

    Did they ever have any episodes on Leave it to Beaver
    when Eddie was selling weed to Wally?

    Did Wally have any gay friends at school?

    Any alcoholism?

    Any fist fights?

    To my awareness at the time,
    none of that was in my world,
    either.

    An old friend from those days,
    a gay man who had a crush on me,
    who still has a crush on me,
    tells me now,
    40 years later,
    that he was sometimes jammed into a locker at school,
    because he was gay.

    Another friend asked me why I never smoked weed.

    Looking back,
    where did he get his weed?

    From a drug dealer.

    So,
    as I have trouble dealing with the hard realities of life,
    crime in my neighborhood,
    even though my wife takes care of me,
    I realize that my stay at home mother,
    and Leave it to Beaver,
    those things did not prepare me for life.

    But you are so correct,
    TV has given me standards,
    social norms and ideals.

    I truly hate the mantra that TV is evil,
    TV makes you stupid.

    The Young and the Restless
    is also a very good show,
    especially since it supports my philosophy,
    that there is no such thing as a bad person.

    The worst villains on the Young and the Restless
    are also the main characters.

    The only thing that even makes them villains
    is that they sometimes do things
    to maintain power and wealth
    that are less than ideal.

    But you, the viewer, always see it from their side,
    you always see their action as maybe reasonable,
    something you might do yourself,
    if pushed into a corner.

    And,
    just as TV is better than movies,
    since a movie is just a dramatic slice of life,
    while TV shows are ongoing life,
    likewise,
    the daytime dramas are better,
    since life goes on every day,
    no just once a week.

    I haven't watched The Young and the Restless in a while,
    but anytime I want,
    I can just go to CBS dot com,
    and watch full episodes.

    But I like the real life drama of Daily Kos,
    and my personal life,
    a little more, nowadays.

    Thanks again for the diary.

    Oh,
    my list of favorite shows:
    Star Trek, and Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine
    Mash,
    Barney Miller,
    The Rockford Files,
    All in the Family,
    Starsky and Hutch,
    Gilligan's Island,
    Addam's Family,
    The Munsters,
    The Beverly Hillbillies,
    The Lucy Show (after the I Love Lucy),
    Ed Sullivan,
    Sonny and Cher,
    The Smothers Brothers,
    Carol Burnett,
    Magnum, PI,
    Hawaii 5-0,
    Miami Vice,
    Nash Bridges,
    CSI,
    Navy NCIS, with Mark Harmon,
    The Waltons,
    Cagney and Laci,
    Barretta,
    The Bugs Bunny - Road Runner Hour,
    The Flintstones (animated cartoon in prime time!),
    The Price is Right,
    Hollywood Squares, with Charles Nelson Riley,
    Red Skelton (Red Skelton's sad clown, and Carol Burnett's washer woman, that was classic clowns, in the tradition of Emmet Kelley's Weary Willie, created during the Great Depression.  I'm a Kelley, not in name, but my father's mother's maiden name, and I think Emmet was a cousin of ours.),
    Jim Nabors,
    Glen Campbell,
    Caroline in the City,
    Dharma and Greg,
    Lost in Space,
    Johnny Quest,
    Yogi Bear,
    Chip and Dale,
    A Family Affair,
    The Equalizer,
    The Prisoner,
    What was the show about the guy who lived in the secret tunnels of New York, and a pretty girl called on him for help, from time to time?

    I could go on.

    Thanks for the diary.

    •  And the answer is: (9+ / 0-)
      What was the show about the guy who lived in the secret tunnels of New York, and a pretty girl called on him for help, from time to time?
      Beauty and the Beast, starring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman.

      Yes, I have no life. :)

      Funny fan story:

      I attended Media West (a media convention for fans) many years ago, when Beauty and the Beast was still on.  Catherine (Linda Hamilton) had been replaced by Diana (I forget the actress), because Linda Hamilton finally became pregnant (after 7 years of trying) and wanted to quit to be a mommy.

      One of the panels I attended was a debate between Catherine fans and Diana fans.  Whoo-ee!  Everybody should have had rabies/distemper shots before being allowed into the room.  They did everything but stab each other with forks as they argued back and forth over which character was better.  I almost got whiplash from looking back and forth between the two groups!

      Oh, yeah.  Television can have a BIG impact on people ...

  •  Picket Fences (5+ / 0-)

    No show has had more of an influence on the way I think. And the reason I have a Wisconsin fetish.

    What would Bulworth do?

    by Progrocks on Wed Mar 20, 2013 at 10:40:04 PM PDT

  •  it's funny (5+ / 0-)

    I walk down the street and see (junior?) high school kids huddling over a friends cel watching something and it seems somehow completely normal and at the same time utterly incomprehensible.

    I remember a crowd of them sitting outside our stoop being very concerned with what 12.12.2012 would mean.  They were convinced that the 13th Baktun would herald mass imprisonment  for some reason ...

    the ubiquity of technology and media intersecting with the democratization of the means of creation, expression and the ability to share internationally make for interesting times

    as if they wouldn't be anyhow  

    "a lie that can no longer be challenged becomes a form of madness" -Debord

    by grollen on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 02:06:22 AM PDT

  •  a very interesting topic (4+ / 0-)

    not sure if it's as pervasive in other countries, but tv is king in the usa

    many commenters have attested to the good ideas received as children and there's no question that it continues to be an immense influence today

    i only watch old movies on it because my psyche can't take msm, so don't know whether there's anything like the shows of yesterday that were conveying humanist messages

    all i see on it in passing is murder, violence, soft porn, etc.

  •  The Prisoner. (8+ / 0-)

    with Patrick McGoohan
    "I'm not a number!  I am a free man!"

    This one aired just as my rebellious and questioning adolescence was manifesting. It's been core to me since.

    comment pending... ;-)

    by paulacvdw on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 06:17:25 AM PDT

  •  I have never had any patience (7+ / 0-)

    with people who say that TV is detrimental to the brain, the character, the imagination, or anything else.

    What about watching TV to the exclusion of doing anything else?  Of course that's detrimental.  So is doing any one thing to the exclusion of doing anything else, or being interested in any one thing to the exclusion of anything else.  Any monomania has more to do with the individual than with the thing they choose to be monomaniacal about.

    Aren't a lot of TV shows incredibly stupid?  Of course they are.  So are a lot of books.  Sturgeon's Law: 90% of everything is crap.  But maybe 5-to-8% is pretty neutral.  Harmless.  No worse than anything else one might do with one's time.

    And that last 2-to-5% is nothing short of brilliant.

    Further: I've been in science-fiction fandom too long to accept the cavil that watching TV is a passive form of entertainment, because you don't have to watch passively.  And fans don't.  We argue about (and with) our shows; we write reams of criticism, analysis, meta-analysis, and fanfic of every possible flavor.  We engage.

    Is that what the makers of TV shows have in mind?  Who cares?  It's what they got.

    And I like it just fine.

    •  Let's say there's a qualitative difference, (0+ / 0-)

      right now, between scripted shows (NCIS, Leverage, Person of Interest) and dreck (Amazing Race, "Survivor," etc.). I don't love most TV news (still record Dan Rather Reporting tho) nowadays, either. What's happened to 48 Hours since that Red State frothery is a crime.

      LBJ, Lady Bird, Van Cliburn, Ike, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

      by BlackSheep1 on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 08:16:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't know that I'd say dreck. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BlackSheep1, bigjacbigjacbigjac

        There are a handful of nonscripted game/competition shows that are actually pretty interesting.  "Survivor" might be dreck (I've never seen any of it, but it certainly sounds like dreck), but the shows that are centered around either building or showcasing a particular skill of the contestants ... those can be good.

        I agree with you that there is a qualitative difference, though.  Shows of that sort aren't storytelling (except to the degree that the footage gets manipulated by the show editors in order to create a narrative, and that's a whole separate discussion); they're televised spectator sport.  I don't have a problem with that.

        And TV news in general is pretty lousy, absolutely.

        •  I don't care for "reality" shows, be they (0+ / 0-)

          on CBS or the "cable" channels. They're a way to manipulate the "cast" as much as the "show runners" do the audience, and that sux.

          LBJ, Lady Bird, Van Cliburn, Ike, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

          by BlackSheep1 on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 10:20:00 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Fair enough. (0+ / 0-)

            I do think there's yet another qualitative difference, though, between the social-experiment kind of reality show and the competition kind -- at least where the competition isn't itself entirely social.  The profession-competition ones can actually be kind of fascinating, at least if the profession involved is one you're interested in.  (I'll confess: I'm a fan of several cooking competition shows.)

            How do you feel about shows such as Mythbusters?  I've been trying to think of what genre one ought to put that in.

            •  I actually like Mythbusters, though I see (0+ / 0-)

              where in the interests of, shall we say, audience access (and a certain flavor of safety) they modify the stories to get a "busted" or not.

              LBJ, Lady Bird, Van Cliburn, Ike, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

              by BlackSheep1 on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 11:52:23 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  I like the Big Brother TV show. (0+ / 0-)

          It seems odd,
          only in that if anyone talks game strategy,
          that person is talking strategy for self,
          not you,
          yet no one calls anyone on that.

          And they sometimes feel isolated.

          Isolated?

          I know it's a one-way relationship
          during the time in the Big Brother house,
          but use your imagination,
          think of all the folks looking at you,
          with the eyes of all those cameras.

          Would I be thrown out, off the show,
          if I waved at the cameras now and then?

          How do you feel isolated,
          when you're on TV?

          But aside from those questions,
          I like the show.

  •  I would add from my own list: (6+ / 0-)

    Mary Tyler Moore, WKRP, Maude, Roseanne.

    I stopped watching most TV about 13 years ago. But I have been recently sidelined with my health,  so finding series I missed in that time to watch on marathons to keep from going stir crazy.....

    One that has totally impressed me was Cold Case. Transgender, Gay, racism and women's issues....It covers a lot. It shows the historical attitudes, and then adds more progressive values to the story.
    I also liked Monk, hilarious, yet touching how the main character deals with his OCD and grief.
    (yes, hes a bit over the top, but I see some of the stuff my son deals with too)

    Qunicy was often much more sympathetic for it's time. BUT! They also had the infamous punk episode. PUNKS ARE BADDDDDD!

    LOL.

    I was more of a new waver in the day. Head half shaved, pink and blue over my face......

    "As the days go by, we face the increasing inevitability that we are alone in a godless, uninhabited, hostile and meaningless universe. Still, you've got to laugh, haven't you?" - Holly, Red Dwarf

    by pale cold on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 10:03:51 AM PDT

    •  I'm a widower with OCD, and my new bride (0+ / 0-)

      and I watched every episode of Monk,
      back to back,
      on Hulu,
      taking as long as it took,
      a month or so.

      It helped us bond,
      since we both said,
      yes, that's me,
      I'm Monk.

      My wife has a PhD in nursing,
      and we also watched House,
      and Doc Martin.

      Hulu is great; we watch whichever show,
      all episodes,
      back to back.

      Doc Martin was great,
      since he was a very good doctor,
      but with no beside manner,
      blunt,
      to the point,
      that's it.

      We loved it,
      since medical advice from your doctor
      should be taken seriously,
      not pushed aside by some whiny feelings you have,
      that contradict the doctor.

      Usually.

  •  My list I'd consider for anyone... (3+ / 0-)

    * not until your 16+

    The Soprano's*
    Stargate (all of them)
    The Wire*
    Star Trek
    The Shield*
    The Prisoner
    The Dick Van Dyke show
    The Andy Griffith Show
    Lost in Space
    Seinfeld
    Bugs Bunny cartoons
    The Three Stooges
    The Thunderbird's
    The Outer Limits
    All in the Family
    Mash
    Cheers
    Frazier
    Mary Tyler Moore
    Lou Grant
    Rescue Me*
    Mad Men*
    The Hustle
    Deadwood*
    The Walking Dead*
    Colombo, McMillan+Wife, Banacek, McCloud
    Battlestar Galactica (first, second*)
    South Park

    ... I could go one, but yes I don't cotton to people who say TV is Satan's handiwork, it is story telling which has been an integral part of human culture since cave paintings.

    I will say, Gene Roddenberry follows in George Orwell, Asimov, Clarke, and Ray Bradbury's steps and is one of the greatest visionaries in human history.

  •  I've thought about writing a similar diary (6+ / 0-)

    I grew up earlier than the diarist, but there's some overlap (Star Trek, M*A*S*H).

    We don't have cable (canceled DISH a long time ago) and can't receive broadcast TV where we are, so we get movies and TV programs on DVD from Netflix or the library (our library has a great selection).

    We get some contemporary TV, both network and cable, but a year or more late. There isn't any downside in that for us, as almost none of our friends watch TV or have cable/satellite. The upsides are that there are no commercials (I don't think TV is evil, but commercials are), and the resolution of cliffhangers is a potty break rather than a week away.

    But watching now the programs I grew up with, I can see a lot of liberal influence. Twilight Zone was mentioned above, but even shows like Have Gun Will Travel have respect for diversity, for learning, and oppose bigotry and hatred. A program from the late 1950s, like Perry Mason, has respect for the rights of the accused and somewhat of an anti-corporate bent at times.

    What surprised me even more is that in the era where someone like Sandra Day O'Connor had enormous difficulty finding a law firm that would hire her, the judge in the trial phase of Perry Mason could be female at times, and even non-white occasionally. I think small, almost subliminal things like that are nearly as important to breaking barriers as Kirk kissing Uhuru, or Diahann Carroll being the first black woman to star in a TV show, or even be in a show as something other than a domestic or worse.

    I think there's a good case to be made that TV in the 1950s and 1960s - more and earlier than film - did a good job of codifying a liberal, humanist morality and transmitting it to my generation, which led to the social changes of the later 1960s and 1970s.

    Even the civil rights movement gained more traction because things in places like Selma or lunch counters were televised, Ed Murrow took down McCarthy a few pegs and publicized the plight of migrants in Harvest of Shame, and the nightly news not only brought the Viet Nam War into living rooms but also helped build common cause on campuses across the country.

    But it's the fictional storytelling as much as the news that created my generation and created a framework that could later be exploited by music, film, and even education.

    Modern revolutions have succeeded because of solidarity, not force.

    by badger on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 11:31:38 AM PDT

  •  As long as you didn't learn from commercials (3+ / 0-)

    The shows are fine.  But the message promoted by all the adverts is the same-  that all your problems and needs can be met with the purchase of such and such consumer product.

    The common moral sensibility is that happiness can be purchased and by extension, money becomes the measure of us all.

    I think the greatest influence on who I am today would be Dr. Seuss, and for that I am eternally grateful.

    An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. -Benjamin Franklin

    by martinjedlicka on Thu Mar 21, 2013 at 11:35:53 AM PDT

    •  Seems to me that television (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Steve Canella

      is about 50% commercials. And a lot watchers get sucked right into them, because they are already in the TV trance, and don't want to break it.

      Personally, I don't think it's a healthy place to be spending much time -- but hey, whatever turns you on.

  •  you took the words. . .and the idea. . . (0+ / 0-)

    right out of my mouth. I mean, this diary. I have always thought along similar lines about the influence of TV programs when growing up (in the 50s and 60s). I was stuck in orphanages and foster homes until close to six, so I never really had a father and that 'tough love' syndrome from my mom was what it was. Still, there are shows back then, morality themes I think they are called, that became my surrogate family and teachings in a way; that, and a mixed Catholic and Jewish upbringing, then much later in time onto the Buddhist priesthood. Anyway, funny how this diary of yours has tripped some rather pleasant memories given all that tough love growing up business. Thanks for posting same.

    Treat the world (yourself, and others) as part of a living organism. Everyone and everything will benefit.

    by richholtzin on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 05:44:27 AM PDT

  •  There is something to be said for how TV (0+ / 0-)

    can create role models.   I actually built my life somewhat around Mary Tyler Moore and That Girl.
    Of course later on, it became Roseanne but the truth is, those shows were well written and even the Variety shows from Sonny and Cher to Lawrence Welk and Flip Wilson and Carol Burnett carried me through many dark days.  I agree with the diarist.   It had a good profound affect on me. I took the writer's ideas and applied many to my own life.  Designing women is another.

    Here is how  I see certain stages of my life.
    We need more of this !

    We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

    by Vetwife on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 07:55:03 AM PDT

  •  And it kinda started here at a young age (0+ / 0-)

    We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

    by Vetwife on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 08:17:42 AM PDT

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