What's On TV: One Family's Struggle
© B. L. Bierley 2012
Choices are Subjective
I, Cathy Writing-Addict, would like to admit something right off the toe. My family watches a good bit of television. Our issue is that we don't have the same taste in programming. We currently have eight television sets in our home, six with satellite boxes. It’s a three bedroom house, folks. I counted up the number of rooms in our house, including the garage and the backyard tool shed, calculated the percentage of televisions we own. Sixty-seven percent of the house has a television set! Yes, it’s sad, but true. Heck, one of those televisions is mounted on the wall in the master bathroom!
You might say that’s no big deal. And I’d love to tell you that all these televisions are so we can keep up with news or the weather. We live in a very high tornado activity area. In recent years, friends of ours have lost not one, but TWO homes due to tornado damage! But I’m being honest with my blogging community. If the weather gets bad around here, the power is usually the first thing that goes, making televisions useless. It's not about altruism that we make sure everyone has a television nearby.
When it comes to television viewing choices, our family opinion divides along many fissures. We can come to an understanding about some things. Like sitcoms, for example. The more mature family members all agree that we like sitcoms. Just not the same sitcoms. Hence the number of televisions we own. Okay, maybe I’m being overly critical. Let me break down the television my family watches.
Shut Up and Watch
Most of my television viewing (not counting DVD or paid cable movies) is sitcoms and crime shows. It's actually more about listening than watching. I do a few other things while some of my viewing takes place. Making dinner, blending Ziggy's nightly milkshake**, cleaning up my dinner preparations, letting out the dog (a duty I share with Cap), and writing and posting my blog are just a few things that make me have to listen instead of true viewing.
I am a fan of the funny shows! Even if a show is classified as drama, if there's even a little funny in the dialog, I'm in. I won't bore you with my list. But I love shows that make me laugh, even if I have to suspend belief now and then. Cap is often annoyed when we watch television together because I talk during the programs. Actually I'm usually pointing out inaccuracies (or sometimes stupidity) in plots. As a writer, I wonder often how these writers get away with not checking the plausibility of their stories. Don't they have Internet?
What I watch in a week isn't really all that monumental. A lot of the time I have to DVR my shows. You'd think I'd have to avoid the water cooler at work to keep from being bombarded with spoilers, but it's not the case. I understand why reality television gets such good ratings. Everyone is watching reality television these days except me apparently. Reality television to me is a way of absorbing other people’s problems into your subconscious and subsequently adopting the same issues in life. I have never worried about what housewives in California, New Jersey, New York or Georgia are stressed about. So why in the hell would I watch a show where they put their dirty laundry out on the television line for everyone to see? It’s not my stress! It’s theirs! Ninety-nine percent of it is fabricated to add drama and drum up ratings. I refuse to watch the emotional wrecks as they happen.
Reality isn’t entertaining unless the people watching don’t have a real life! I am a mother of two children—one a mature-for-her-age teenager who always seemed to get things before we even got a chance to explain them to her, and the other a pre-teen who sometimes worries me with how naïve he continues to be despite all the evidence his sister brings to the table! I have a full-time job and a writing habit akin to a life-time crack addiction. I don’t have time for other people’s problems! I don’t give a fig about some rich lady’s problems with remodeling her high rise penthouse apartment and figuring out how to save all her dead television executive husband’s mementos and things her children might want when she’s in the ground or cryogenically frozen until the aliens figure out how to bring her back in her “best-years-without-Botox” body. I don’t have time to laugh at the maniacal way young people try to fit into the in-crowd or whatever they’re calling it these days.
I think I don't watch as much television nowadays because I don't get it. I don’t want to see drunken twenty-something morons embarrassing their entire home state on national television with the insipidly idiotic things they do that people will make fun of for weeks in the tabloids and prime-time talk shows. Seriously, where are the writers? And who’s watching this drivel and keeping good dialog and acting off our screens?If I want crazy, I can go to my local discount mart at three a.m. and people-watch until my eyes bleed. Reality isn’t real until you’ve stepped into the steaming pile with your new shoes, people.
Don’t get me wrong, I like television. In my childhood I did a lot of television viewing as well, and I maintain that I turned out just fine. In general I would say I'm fairly well-cultured with a wide variety of interests and tastes. Television viewing isn’t and will never be my favorite pastime. I come from a long line of movie people. Movies are more my speed. I’m a movie junkie on those rare occasions when my writing’s slow. But don’t let me get off on that tangent. I’ll give another blog on my movie obsession sometime soon. Let’s just stick to television right now.
Now, getting down from my soapbox, I’ll move on to Cap's viewing.
**Bad Mommy Disclaimer: Before you call DHR for my indulgence with nightly junk food, let me explain. I've got a doctor's permission- Ziggy is a very picky eater and as a result is a little underweight. These milkshakes are fortified to fatten him up a little so he won't get blown away in a stiff wind.
Family Feud: It's Not Just a Game Show
Cap's television viewing is going to be brief. Cap is a fan of a specific genre of reality television that is also known by its traditional name: SPORTS. Golf, College Football, College Basketball, NFL Football, seriously, I can go on and on with Cap's program choices. There is barely a month of the year where there isn't some kind of sport being played somewhere in the world. And if it's on our satellite provider, by goodness Cap will watch it. He'll watch fellows sitting around talking about sports played in the past or hours of speculation about sports to be played in the coming season. Sports programs are inescapable!
I don't have a problem with sports. Cap and I sometimes disagree with what classifies something as a sport. But that's not our real problem with sports. The problem with Cap and I and sports is that we attended different colleges. We attended rival colleges in the same state. It's a rivalry so bad, people have committed heinous crimes in the past trying to get back at the enemy. In the state of Alabama the rivalry between that other school and my alma mater is akin to a civil war. For a period in the past, the teams weren't even allowed to play against one another because the grudges between fans had gotten so out of hand the schools feared for public safety.
If sports aren't an option, Cap will sometimes choose programs that showcase cars and trucks. Usually these shows are about customizing the cars and trucks, or perhaps highlighting features of comparative models. Besides sports and cars, Cap's other television choices usually coincide with mine. We often channel surf when there isn't anything new on that we like, and 9 times out of 10 we choose a History Channel show or National Geographic programming. We loved "Rocket City Rednecks" primarily because it was filmed in our geographical area! We supported them for their first season and hope to see more of their antics. There's an HDTV show that we also like, "Drinking Made Easy". It's pretty funny, and the people on the show are definitely in need of a 12-Step program or intervention from time to time. But we watch and wish we could have a job like theirs, going around sampling signature drinks and beers at bars and restaurants across the country and writing about it on their website! Nirvana!
We occasionally watch DIY and try not to let it confuse us into thinking we can do massive projects without any skill and on their TV-magic budgets. But that's usually only for a rare Saturday afternoon. If we watch too long, we start to remember our own foray into remodeling. About a year ago we updated our master bathroom. Dredging up those memories is not good. If Cap brings up how much more of the work he did than me on that remodel, there's going to be a police report involving an electric sander and the removal of hair from a certain part of a man's anatomy while he's sleeping (and I don't mean his back, folks).
Cap will sometimes sit through my shows without much complaint. He likes sitcoms and crime shows just like me. And I'll sit and read while he watches his sports and car shows. But our kids are another story.
How Can You Watch That?
Usually when DaVelma sits down to watch television, I ask the question, "How can you watch that?" But then I usually watch it for a few minutes before walking away shaking my head slowly. DaVelma is a reality-television viewer. She watches other things sometimes, like sitcoms and such. But more than once a week I will see her watching (shuddery shudder shudder) reality TV. Oh the humanity! I once walked into the kids' TV room and caught her watching "Toddlers and Tiaras" , where mothers parade their poor, deluded toddlers across a stage hair teased and enough make-up that they look like rejects from the extras cast of "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas". I put DaVelma in two pageants when she was little. And after seeing her cry and then get angry because she didn't win, "the big crown" I decided that I wasn't going to make her into one of those girls who believes her worth lies in her beauty. But in her defense DaVelma loves comedy too! She watches "Ridiculousness" (which I will admit Cap and I watched and laughed at too), despite being reality television, the show makes fun of itself and the idiocy found on the World Wide Web.
DaVelma does watch some shows that are in common with my choice viewing. Often we will watch the same DVR programs. But her willingness to watch other reality shows, where people are paid to air their troubles on national television, is beyond me. Still DaVelma is very much my child in that she'd prefer a good movie over a television program most days. She's still upset with me for cancelling our Netflix membership. Actually, I kind of miss that too. The reason we cancelled was in protest of their rate increase and the separation of the streaming and DVD services. When they backpedaled, we were already committed to the protest and didn't back down. I'll probably cave in and take them back eventually.
Ziggy is easy to predict as far as television programming. Ziggy loves cartoons. Nothing but cartoons for most of his viewing hours. He gets about two hours a day total. He watches morning cartoons in the form of Tom and Jerry Kids and Pocket Puppies or occasionally Pokemon or Bakugan while he is eating his breakfast or getting dressed for school. He also is allowed to have the television in his room on for an hour before he goes to bed. He's only allowed to watch west coast programming at night though, since they're four hours behind, their evening programs are just starting!
I've watched the cartoons Ziggy likes on occasion, in order to make sure I understand what they're about and that they're not teaching him the wrong lessons. For the most part his choices are harmless. I'm still quite puzzled as to whether any of them have an actual plot. There isn't anything alarming in them. No realistic human violence or questionable language or situations. Just silly animals or a boy and his talking dog going on quests. Once in a while Ziggy will watch a good Scooby Doo or a PowerPuff Girls episode in for good measure. Now and then he'll get on a Disney Channel kick, which is okay too. We avoid Nickelodeon (except when it's Spongebob reruns) ever since the girl from the show, "Zoe 101", set a bad example by getting in a family way when she wasn't married or planning to get married. I'm not really so old-fashioned that I don't think teenagers are sexually active, and I'm not judging the girl. But that was back when DaVelma was still watching kiddie television. I just didn't want my kids to think that making bad choices meant no consequences. Call me crazy but if you're a role-model for young ladies and gentlemen, then your personal behavior has to impact your job. I didn't like the way they handled that, so again we boycotted in protest.
The only non-cartoon shows Ziggy will watch are funny home video shows or the show where people will put themselves through unimaginable mazes and obstacle courses, usually fraught with slime, slippery surfaces and objects that appear to have the capacity for causing major amounts of pain, in order to win a money prize. Ziggy's attention span for television is incredibly short, so most of the time he watches about five minutes of television, grabs a Nerf sword or Nerf dart gun, and goes off to re-enact a scene from one of his cartoon shows. Our cat Scooby is forever avoiding Ziggy's play unless he's intrigued by the ammunition. That is why you cannot walk through our home without finding a Nerf dart somewhere surprising- like the linen closet, the kitchen sink, or wherever he was when he decided he was finished batting it around.
Someone asked me recently if I thought my kids watched too much television. I laughed. DaVelma spends more time in Skype or FaceBook to be dedicated to any show for more than ten minutes. Unless whoever she's Skyping is watching the same show, she usually could care less about what's on. And Ziggy would rather be watching Minecraft videos or other kid-friendly clips on YouTube instead of television any day. I even bought him a small video camera so he could film his own clips if he wanted, but he's content watching the results of others or drawing his own comics to fool with personal video production efforts. He loves showing me clips he's found, too. If you haven't seen the video for the boy singing, "Running Errands With My Mom" you really should go check that out! I giggled for an hour over that one!
What Else Can We Do?
I guess it really doesn't matter that we don't agree on television programming. We don't live and die by the television anymore. Cap and I will often skip a show (or DVR it if it might be worth our time later) in order to take a family walk with the kids. DaVelma loves working on projects she and her friends have dreamt up, like their recent repainting of a bench that was headed for the bonfire. A little elbow grease and some recycled paint gave us a new adornment for the front yard! And DaVelma can usually be persuaded to walk Velcro, knowing odds are she will run into a few friends along the way. And with summer fast approaching, there are targets and air soft guns at the ready for a family tournament to see who's the "Top Shot" in our household! And we put television on a weekly three-day hiatus by going camping nearly every weekend! So until next time, let's just say we agree to disagree on television.