The Pervasive Boob Tube

I’m warning you now . . . today’s post is going to be a bit of a rant.  And it’s about the love/hate relationship that I have with TV.

I grew up in the 70s, right around the time that TV started to get really “good,” with lots of fun and educational programming to choose from.  I learned Spanish and sign language from Sesame Street.  The Electric Company’s Easy Reader helped instill in me a love for reading (thanks, Mr. Freeman!).  And to this day, I still sing several of the Schoolhouse Rock songs at the most random times.

We also had amazing cartoons; from the three-hour Bugs Bunny/Road Runner marathons on Saturday mornings, to all the Hanna-Barbera shows where mysteries got solved by those “meddlesome kids.”  And throughout the late 70s and early 80s there was some great pabulum to be seen in the form of prime-time viewing (though now, so many of the shows I loved back then seem dated . . . and not in a good way).

And being of the “latchkey kid” generation, the TV got turned on as soon as I got home from school.  I would try to turn it off to do my chores, but that usually wound up happening 30 minutes before my mother was due home from work.  Sometimes I scrambled fast enough that I was able to get the cleaning done in one commercial break.

I still enjoy watching TV . . . to a certain extent.  In fact, right now there are more shows that I enjoy watching than at any other time that I can recall.  Some of that is due to the sheer number of channels available, but some of it is due to the better writing that has come out of Hollywood lately.

No, my complaint with regards to the boob tube is that it’s begun to infect every single corner of our lives.

People have been watching shows on their cell phones for the last few years now . . . which strikes me as weird, since we used to complain about the tiny size of the available screens back in the 70s.  I just can’t make peace with watching something on a screen 4 times smaller than I had when I was little.

But even worse is that TVs are now cropping up in restaurants, grocery stores and who KNOWS where else!  I can understand the concept of having TVs at a sports bar . . . because that’s why people go to a sports bar . . . to watch their team’s event.  But why does it need to be in other restaurants?  There are a couple diners here in Alameda that have multiple TVs playing any time I go in there.  And Craig just told me about a recent experience at a Burger King, where there were TVs in there playing 2- and 3-minute clips of various shows . . . followed by several minutes of commercials.

And THAT’S what I hate the most about this new trend . . . the advertising!  It’s bad enough that there are more commercial breaks in TV shows now than before.  But–if the Burger King incident is any indication–pretty soon it’ll be 5-10 minutes of TV show surrounded by 20 minutes of commercials.  That trend started to irk me when it infiltrated my sacred movie theaters over a decade ago.  Though, that one I’m willing to put up with so that I can be sure to get my favorite seats when I see a film . . . but I do tend to focus on something else if I can.

But I don’t know that I’ll be okay with the trend of restaurants playing TVs all the time.  I’m actually considering a boycott of restaurants that have said distraction in multiple areas of their establishment.  Craig pointed out that I don’t need an even narrower group of places I can eat (due to my dietary restrictions), but I might be willing to make that sacrifice.  It really irks me to have to vie for someone’s attention when I’m dining out with them (and I don’t care who you are, you’re bound to get distracted by the boob tube . . . it’s designed that way).  It just seems rude and unnecessary to “have” to be connected to the idiot box all the damn time!  Talk to the people you’re dining with, for crissakes!

And, even if I’m dining by myself, I’d much rather have peace and quiet so I can read my book or magazine and not have my attention keep getting pulled away by whatever is being said on the television.

In writing about this now, I realize that I’ve actually started strategically seating myself to where I’m the one in sight of the TV . . . because I know I won’t be as distracted as the other person might (or, at least I think that’s true . . . who knows?).  I hate realizing that I feel the need to think that far ahead about that sort of thing, because that puts me on the defensive already.

So, while I’m okay with TV being a distraction in the home, I don’t need or want said distraction to follow me when I’m going out for a nice meal.  Heck, even a mediocre meal (no offense, BK), deserves more attention than having a TV on in the background provides.

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