19 Nov

Where have all the good shows gone?

Our definition of "entertained" has certainly changed over time, hasn't it? Especially for the kids when it comes to broadcast TV. And I argue it's for the worse (with PBS being the exception)

As you probably know, kids love cartoons. Saturday morning was, and still is, magic time when it comes to cartoon watching. I remember watching shows on all the major non-cable networks. It seemed like many of them were "sittoons" (a word I just made up) -- a real-life situation with a minor lesson to be learned, all while being delivered in cartoon format. Because I have a feeling this blog entry is going to get long, I'll list two of the main ones I can think of.

GI Joe's Public Service Announcements at the end of each episode always taught me never to go anywhere near power lines; told me what to do if my arm caught on fire; taught me to be cautious when coming near a stray dog.

Care Bears dealing with all types of real-life feelings: Getting braces, being ridiculed for wearing glasses, what to do when you feel like running away from home, and being bullied. Instead, we have the Simpsons, who indirectly teach us that to counter being bullied, we should bring our own band of punks.

And it doesn't have to be limited to cartoons.

Remember the older sitcoms? Leave It To Beaver and ooooooh, The Cosby Show! -- prime time TV shows that in my opinion balanced humor and morals within each episode (and yes, I know there were more sitcoms doing such things). You didn't dare go out without telling Mr. Huxtable where you were going. Or mouth off. Or not do your chores. There was grounding... and then a fair amount of time explaining why it happened and what to do about it.

Heck, even Family Matters, Step By Step, and Full House ON DURING PRIME TIME FRIDAY NIGHT, seemed to have a "sit back and analyze what just happened" scene at the end of each show (accompanied by the slow, sorrowful music)

I'm not saying that these shows' sole purpose was to teach us the rights and wrongs of life, but I AM saying that they constantly reminded us of those things, all while being entertained.

But now what's happened to these shows?

Let's start with the Saturday morning time slot. Well, the FCC helped ruin that with the introduction of the Childrens Television Act of 1990, which forces a minimum of three hours per week of Educational or Informative (E/I) content. Now while this isn't a bad thing, it did have adverse results. Broadcast networks don't want to touch any precious time from M-F for ratings purposes, so from 7am - 10am (or some portion thereof) on Saturdays, the three major networks show a special edition of Weekend News, as a way to fill the E/I quota.

Well, let me tell you, I know MY kids will wake up extra early on Saturday morning for THAT!

Then, when the quota is filled, they are free to show non E/I content -- but what's out there?

Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, That's So Raven, Hannah Montana, Sonic X, The Emperor's New School, The Doodlebops, Dinosaur King, Spongebob Squarepants.. ugh.

The shows are seemingly limited to battling, good vs evil, music-based or what it takes to be more socially hip. Where are those "little reminders"? Ok, so my kids are taught everything they wanted to know about the duck-billed platypus and how paper is made, but seemingly nothing regarding life-lessons. So Saturday morning is out.

So what have we got in the weekday after school slot? Psshhh... (insert laughter here)... D'ok. Next?

What about the weekday prime-time slot? Well, a talent show (Idol), another talent show (X-factor), ANOTHER talent show (America's Got Talent), a music show (Glee), 9,000 crime-scene shows, 34,220 law shows, reality shows (Survivor and the like), sports, old movies, and for the time slots that remain, comedies that sure don't teach a life lesson, and SURELY are not even close to being suited for children (constant use of arse, bizzniche, and the underworld).

But they're what get the ratings, and sadly, that's all that matters.

And the good shows that do exist survive on life-support via a smaller cable channel (Noggin, Boomerang, Nick At Nite, et al)

But nobody notices. It's like a game of telephone -- the first person gets the story close to perfect, the next person gets most of the details, and so on and so on. Everybody thinks they have remembered most of the key details they heard, until you examine the story at the end and compare it to the beginning. It's these small omissions from life... little gradual steps... to do something for the better of the whole.

The next time you're exiting the parking lot and seemingly nobody is applying the zipper method...

The next time a youngster doesn't hold the door open even though you were only 3 steps behind...

When your kids wander off without telling the parents where they are...

When it seems like nobody does anything without being paid for it...

When you see Johnny sitting alone at the lunch table at school and nobody does anything about it...

So it's up to the parents to constantly remind their children of important lessons (which is fine, but I can hear the telephone ringing). For crying out loud, we have some parents who don't spend quality time assisting their children with their homework questions (and if you don't believe me, read the studies). There exist reasons for this, some which are not by choice, but that's not the point. (telephone rings)

Little by little. One person at a time.

But don't worry, at least we've got people with good voices, good dancing ability and can play sports...

Categories: Gripe