Why I Stopped Worrying and Started Loving the TV

A few weeks ago, Neil Genzlinger wrote an astute and cutting editorial in the New York Times about the dangers of listening to studies that tell you what is going to kill you – specifically the dangers of watching too much TV.

After reviewing the latest alarmist study about how TV is killing us, Genzlinger concludes:

“Yes, television affects our lives, as do microwaves, cellphones, cars, polyester, Tupperware. You can either study those effects to death — “Study Finds That Trying to Keep Up With Studies of TV Viewing Causes Insanity” — or just accept that there’s a good-bad trade-off in watching television, and that you should negotiate it as best as you can, using common sense.”

Common sense? Moderation? How dare he inject such reason into alarmism?

Pleasantly, Genzlinger also mentioned several studies that looked at the benefits of TV. At the Washington Post, you can find a slightly dated but fascinating article about the benefits of TV on cognitive function and tolerance and why sitting around watching tv is just as “bad” for kids as sitting around reading.

The oft overlooked benefits of TV are just as relevant as the potential hazards. TV functions as a means to broaden cultural horizons, to educate, to teach morality (not just kids programming – if you think Grey’s Anatomy doesn’t have a lesson-an-episode format, you’re not watching it very closely). The success of Reading Rainbow’s Kickstarter is evidence of the enduring effects of education through television. TV is the reason I know what a preposition is (School House Rocks) and how to decode an encoded message (Square One). It was also where I first met a person who identified as gay (Will and Grace) or who had dealt with the death of a parent (Full House, My Two Dads).

The Internet has made the world accessible from anywhere. TV and serialized programming provide context for some of that unfamiliar world and offer a safe place to experiment with social change, learn life lessons without making all of the mistakes, and empathize with people outside of our personal experience.

Maybe if I do some calisthenics during prime time, I can negate the deadly effects of my dangerous television.