How bad is TV?

From Reason, here is an article about how bad TV really is for us.

Critics ceaselessly point out television's alleged faults. The growing girth of the nation is blamed on it; increased violence; higher levels of teen sexual activity; and finally, we are assured, the idiot box is generally dumbing us all down.

But we have plenty of reasons to doubt that bill of indictment on television. Children today are watching slightly less television per day than they were a decade ago, even as they continue to pork up. Violent crime rates have been falling in the United States for a decade; and rates of teen sexual activity and pregnancy have fallen dramatically since the mid-1990s. Average IQs have been soaring along with TV viewing for decades.

And it's not as though Americans have been sitting in front of their boob tubes and drooling all day for the past half-century of mass TV viewing. Our real gross domestic product has more than quintupled since 1950.

Well I love television and my brain certainly isn't rotting from it. Actually since I moved to Texas I haven't had cable which has led me to watching more network television (though not really less television overall), and to visiting people more who happen to have cable. (I have to catch up on the Daily Show sometimes, not to mention Stargate and Star Trek).

What I really miss is TechTV. There weren't any specific shows I watched on that channel rather it was simply a great channel to tune into when you wanted to watch something interesting and nothing much was on.

Meanwhile since I lack Discovery and TLC I've discovered that NOVA isn't quite so bad a show as I remember it being, and that PBS is one of the best channels to watch if you have insomnia and no cable. I saw a very interesting documentary on Woodrow Wilson at like 3 AM a few weeks back.

I have also discovered that network dramas and sitcoms seem to have improved as of late. Scrubs is a great show, and I have even caught a few episodes of CSI that I actually liked. One of my favorite network shows is Law and Order: Criminal Intent. I do not like any of the other Law and Order shows, just that one because the plots are great. The criminals are all real world (in other words no mystical or alien b.s.) yet they all manage to create very elaborate schemes to get what they want. I enjoy the complexity. I'm sick of seeing shows (nowadays its mostly movies) with simplistic plots and simplistic villains.

Network television seems to have gotten really good at creating psychological dramas. Lost is a great example of that. Every episode is psychologically intense to the extreme. Thus far we've been subjected to polar bears, mysterious unseen creatures, insane kidnappers, drug addicts, an intense plane crash, attempted murders, hallucinations, and random unexplained phenomena. This seems to be abc's version of 24, or to be more specific its ABC's version of a drama that tries to supersaturate every moment with edge of your seat emotion and suspense.

So to surmise network TV isn't all bad, crime drama's aren't all stupid, and my intelligence hasn't been sucked out through my eyes by virtue of the fact that I catch a few hours of TV a week (of course that last one depends on who you ask...).

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I heard a promo on NPR this

I heard a promo on NPR this morning for an upcoming story about how awful TV has become. I didn't hear the whole story, but they played snippets from Fear Factor, Who's Your Daddy, and Sex And The City. They commented about adults fearing that kids will grow up thinking this is 'normal'.

Yup, there's a lot of crap on TV. (I would strongly disagree that SATC is crap, although I suppose they were criticizing it for its sexual content.) But there's a lot of good stuff too. The good thing is there are plenty of choices. I'm not a fan of Jerry Springer or Wife Swap or Access Hollywood, but they're available to anyone who wants to watch them and I think that's good. HBO alone has put out a lot of great shows, including Six Feet Under, Carnivale, and many others. Other networks also put out good shows, like The Shield, Monk, and Alias. And don't forget the cool non-fiction shows like Good Eats, Road Trip, and many others on the 'educational' networks.

Choice is good.

IMO, Alias is one of the

IMO, Alias is one of the best series to ever air on television.

Oh, people may be watching

Oh, people may be watching less TV these days, but the shortfall is more than made up for by the increased concentration of idiocy in what's left.


Note on the side: the

Note on the side: the average IQ does not soar. It can neither drop nor fall, because 100 *is* the average IQ by definition.

Keith, see the Flynn

Keith, see the Flynn Effect



lung: "he did it! he looks mean."

me: "no, lung, that's the policeman."

lung: "oh."

( a few minutes later)

another lung, or lung: "he did it! he looks mean"

me (patiently) "no, lung, that's another policeman."

another lung, or lung: "oh"

(repeat until powerpuff girls is on or Perry Mason, or a technician comes in to report that the silo's DANCE, DANCE REVOLUTION machine is fixed.)

What could be more

What could be more "psychological" than "insane kidnappers" and "drug addicts"?

Nekulturny Catellarchy! Jeez. Back to the punchcard machines with you all!

It's just bad in that some

It's just bad in that some shows, or whole channels, repeatedly subject viewers (or rather, viewers subject themselves) to stuff that really isn't beneficial, or enlightening, or hell even heart warming. All this in addition to the absolutely undeniable effect of creating folks with quite myopic attention spans. Like everything else its good in moderation, both in how much you watch and what you watch.

Well, you could argue that

Well, you could argue that all those cable channels have forced network TV to at least try and produce some decent stuff. Law & Order is pretty good late night fare, in all its ilks. I think Cold Case is rather neat as well. What bugs me is that the state of sit-com in both UK and US is very dire.

Yeah, but Tech TV used to be

Yeah, but Tech TV used to be a lot better before they were bought out by G4 and moved to LA. Frankly, they could improve all of their current programming if they'd dump all of those miserable G4 personalities. At least G4 had enough sense to keep Morgan Webb (yumm!) around. When's she going to get her own sitcom?

Does rooting for the

Does rooting for the criminal in Law and Order make me a bad person?

I haven't seen techtv since

I haven't seen techtv since it was bought out. I didn't realize it had gotten that bad. Did they ever get Leo back?

luca brazzi! you will sleep

luca brazzi!

you will sleep with the fishies! the adorable little fishies!



I haven't watched TechTV in

I haven't watched TechTV in a while either. I always thought it was good fun.

The Flynn Effect doesn't

The Flynn Effect doesn't negate what I wrote. By definition the average IQ is 100, so saying that IQ--as opposed to the varieties of intelligence it proports to measure--is rising, is nonsense.

I'm saying that saying IQ is rising, as opposed to intelligence, is intellectually sloppy.

If sturgeon's law applies,

If sturgeon's law applies, 10% of the current shows are good, and are being saved digitally for posterity. This is a wonderful flowering of civilization and culture. Beats hell out of periclean athens.
For a while there, tv replaced shakespeare and the bible as a cultural commons for metaphors and allusions. One of these days, Alice, pow! right to the moon. Now with cable and bittorrent, the audience is a bit more fragmented, but still adding millions of eyeballs each year.
I myself don't watch tv these days, preferring texty blogs. But I doubt that's the trend. The trend is toward video blogs, millions of stations, home networks, camwhores (I mean that in a good way.) NPR has an agenda for its "never give the people what they want" meme.

Who needs Ethics when we've

Who needs Ethics when we've got "Journalism"!
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