tackling television.
a five-part story.

“we watch diego like every night. it is just like my favorite show ever.” hearing this makes me cringe. not that a. sounds like a valley girl, which in turn means i sound like a valley girl (is the term valley girl used anymore?), but that she said this to someone else. why? because i don’t want to defend that it is not true. why do i care? well, you see, i have a strange relationship with t.v.. a.’s previous comment coupled with a satellite providers insane deal which includes: nfl’s sunday ticket at no additional cost (every packer game), 4 receivers, hdtv-dvr, 7,000 remote controls, an easter basket, 2 sunny side up eggs, a black box with that contains the answer to the question, 6 dozen jelly filled do-nuts, 5 microwave ovens, and a chance to visit one of their satellites in space if i average 6 hours of screen time a day for the next six months (viewing their programming through your mobile device counts, but for only 2/3 an hour for every hour, perhaps this is due to the fact that we have to look up to drive every once in a while), all for the low price of my soul, has got me thinking about t.v. again.

I. as a kid:

what i remember about t.v. as a kid is: mr. rodgers, seasame street, the 1984 olympics, wrestling on sundays, some weird 3-d movie about an ape, the cosby’s, family ties, and then cable. ah, the start of all this wonderful weirdness. i have fond memories of eating combos, drinking soda, sucking freezy pops, and watching videos on mtv during hot august days. parents have always questioned the time their kids devote to any one activity. “you’re watching too much t.v.. would you put down the drum sticks for a minute? hang up the phone. quit it with all that book reading would ya.” well, maybe not the last one, but you get the point. moderation seems to be a lesson that parents try to pass on to their children, some get the lesson, and others like me are just now catching up. i mean, i work at it every day for 6 hours, you’d think i’d understand the concept. back to t.v. – other than being protected from “al bundy” and other programming that my folks didn’t find appropriate, i don’t remember t.v. being a huge issue. in high school i am sure i watched t.v., but work and friends took up much of my time.

II. as a mini-adult:

when i went to college i spent little time watching t.v., and as i worked through my 20’s i usually “fell asleep” while i was watching t.v.. now, the exception to all of this was sports and “the real world” on mtv. i love football, enjoy watching sporting events, and for some reason i am a sucker for reality t.v.. okay, i also had a lunch time ritual of watching “days” with r.. i’m guessing sammie and the crew are still at it. well, okay, that crept into the next hour which was “passions”. i liked the supernatural thing going on with “passions”.

III. as an adult:

as a full on satellite t.v. watcher in my late 20’s i filled my cup with reality t.v., sports and news. we watched a ton of t.v.. i could have recited inane facts about cast members from most reality shows, argued the merits of real world miami, and yelled at the screen while watching slanted news sources, but, a big but here, i never thought of myself as a t.v. watcher, or the image i had in my mind of a t.v. watcher. “i” watched t.v. differently than everyone else. right? i was certainly thinking about “the bachelor” at a higher level than the average viewer, of course i was laughing at the “idiots” on the screen, not emotionally investing myself. bah. do i know how to justify my actions and separate myself. no, i was just like everyone else. nights with zombie faces and little conversation were interrupted by trips to the tavern to see friends or music, or friends and music, and even sometimes musical friends. i feel the odd need to explain that there was obviously more to our lives, but t.v. was a definite part of it. then a. was born.

IV. as an adult with kids in wisconsin:

we are rather protective of our kids, and screens have a huge influence on them – both good and bad. i did not want a. to see the television until she was two. totally realistic right? i was pretty uptight about it too. after some time, and many discussions with r., whom is more relaxed and natural with her approach to t.v. (by natural i mean that she doesn’t feel the need to make it an issue. if they catch some glimpses at times during their first couple of years it won’t kill them) we came to the understanding, with a., that she could watch an episode of wow wow wubzy (you either hate or love him – i love him) every couple of days after she turned one and a half. i think what makes me feel weird is watching how kids look when they are watching t.v., it’s kind of freaky the way all their energy gets sapped and they just zone. the way we all do i guess, but is this bad? i don’t know. it looks relaxing. due to a. watching movies and t.v. shows, h. definitely has had a more relaxed version of our television watching diet than a. – she seems pretty normal. (please laugh at that). i have managed to be realistic that the tv exists and that people watch it, that i watch it, but i still attach a negative stigma to the television, and feel a need to defend our time in front of the screen. maybe that’s it, i attach watching t.v. to being lazy, and think that if i watch too much t.v. or our kids watch too much t.v. then we are not exploring the world the way we should. what is too much t.v.? does attaching a time period that a kid can watch t.v. only increase the importance that t.v. has in the house?

V. as an adult with kids in alabama:

we moved into our current home without satellite/cable t.v., not by choice, but circumstance. we have rabbit ears for the t.v.s and subscribe to netflix. we spend very little time in front of the t.v. and have come to enjoy it. a. absolutely loves “diego”. she has a super cool “diego” dance and gets excited when we are going to watch an episode. we also watch a movie from time to time. we have come to a good place with our “screens” in the house. a. wants to watch “diego” more than we allow, but recovers quickly after the initial disappointment of not seeing her “friend”. we had grown accustom to not having 210 channels of choices, and then, dun dun dun, a flyer came in the mail. a flyer containing the opportunity to: tape up to 400 hours of programming to watch at our convenience, catch every packer game in real hd, and not miss anything going on anywhere in the world ever – except our backyard, neighborhood, city, and well, the real world. i was intrigued and after a half hour of hemming and hawing, i called. when i was on the phone ordering the service, the person taking my order was listing everything that i was going to “get”. he may have thought he was impressing me, but with each item he mentioned my stomach felt a bit more hollow. at one point i told him i didn’t want something. he told me “mr. meyer, this is of no cost to you. why wouldn’t you want it. do you understand what this box can do?” no, i don’t want more stuff. more boxes, more options, more time taken away from spacing out on the back porch, more remotes. i know we can watch as much as we want, and that dvrs are pretty awesome as far as controlling programming. i also know that we are in control of it – not the other way around. it feels like we are debating whether or not to let the guy i met last week move in with us. sure he can cook and clean, but his laugh is loud, he walks around in his boxers, and whistles.

as of now, we are on the fence. it is set to be installed next wednesday – we can back down. a.’s initial comment boils down to my concern – other’s perceptions – that is garbage, but along with that comes the perception i have of who we are and how we are raising our children. i want them to be well-balanced and thoughtful humans who are in-tune with the world. like it or not t.v. is a part of their world. the question isn’t whether to subscribe to a service or not, but whether we are going to own the service or let the service own us.
i’m sure we will get satellite t.v., we just had to make sure we thought about it. go pack, breaking news and yes, our friend “diego”.