Jewish World Review April 27, 2004 / 6 Iyar, 5764

Dean P. Johnson

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Once again, it's TV's fault | Recent research claims that television may "rewire" children's developing brains increasing their chances of having attention deficits.

It was only a couple of years ago that health experts in London stated that television influences what, where and how much children eat showing a direct correlation between television viewing and obesity. According to experts, a 2002 California study said that a quarter of a child's total food intake occurs in front of the TV.

Haven't we already blamed child violence, disrespectful attitudes, failing grades, illiteracy and a multitude of various domestic disturbances - especially during football season - on television?

Is there nothing we can't blame on good ol' television?

Why not road rage? Besides being inspired by examples of the violent highway phenomenon on the evening news, being stuck in traffic while hurrying home to see a specific show on TV will rile up the dander of the most passive driver.

Crime could be televisions fault as well. What could be more rousing to the aspiring criminal than a slick bank robbery, a cool chase, a mutual respect between robbers and cops as seen on TV?

Stupidity itself, if not wholly television's fault, could easily be correlated to the amount of television viewing from the simplest, a dumbest, childish stunt on a skateboard to corporate abracadabra. One interesting study could be how many hours Enron executives or Martha Stewart watched Dallas and Dynasty during the Eighties. It's surprising that greed was listed in the top seven most deadly sins before television. How could everyone have known about it without seeing it on TV?

It is obvious to me that television, like lawyers in the Eighties and disco in the Seventies, has become the scapegoat of our time.

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But where are her defenders? Where are all those who were raised on television? Have they abandoned her when she needs them the most?

Lest we forget that she has always been there for us. When we were learning how to count and to say our ABC's, who was there to sing them to us as we sat on the curbs of Sesame Street? When we had nothing to do on Saturday mornings, who was there to animate our day? When we were feeling sad, who made us laugh with the likes of Bill Cosby, Michael J. Fox, Tony Danza and Tom Hanks wearing a dress? When we were feeling unloved, who gave us hope with Love American Style or The Love Boat? When our lives seem dull and unimaginative, who gave us Fantasy Island? When we needed good, wholesome fatherly advice, who gave us Mike Brady or Mr. Cunningham? When we needed to learn how to be cool, who gave us the Fonz? When we were never cool, who gave us Square Pegs to tell us it was okay to be a nerd? When girls were supposed to live at home until marriage, who showed us the way with Laverne and Shirley? When we would do something embarrassingly dumb, who gave us Seinfeld to show us how to laugh at ourselves? When we would feel guilt for tinges of prejudice in our jokes, who was it that gave us Archie Bunker to show us just how funny misogyny and bigotry is.

Who was it that taught us even kids in the slow class could be witty with a teacher like Mr. Kotter? Who showed us how crime fighting and race relations can be accomplished with the style and finesse of Crocket and Tubbs? Who gave us model families like the Keatons, the Partridges, the Jeffersons, and, of course, the Waltons to emulate in our adulthood?

Who did all this for us? Television, that's who.

We don't need anyone to tell us about our television. Remember how it felt when we were too sick to go to school but not to sick to watch TV? Remember how we'd watch the Price Is Right and how we knew that a box of Rice-A-Roni (that San Francisco Treat) was less expensive than a box of Bisquick because we always had to go grocery shopping with our mothers?

She needs us now more than ever. We must rally to her defense. We must show her support by taking responsibility for our own actions and for allowing our children to watch television unsupervised for hours upon hours. You can't blame the cigarette for emphysema, the drink for alcoholism, the gun for murder, or the cell phone for reckless driving, right? So you can't blame television for anything but fine, loving companionship.

JWR contributor Dean P. Johnson's columns appear in Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Hartford Courant, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, San Francisco Examiner, Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger, Atlantic City Press, Philadelphia Inquirer among other smaller papers. Comment by clicking here.


03/31/04: My kids have been watching the news again!
03/26/04: Why are we still annoying Americans with metrics?

© 2004, Dean P. Johnson