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footloose and tv-free life without a tv set
by Yee-Fan Sun |
1 2 3
continued from page 1

It's something that's been a long-standing point of contention between the boy and me. He's a member of that rare breed of American whose formative years were largely spent without a TV in the house -- when his parents finally did decide to let one of those e-vile contraptions under their roof, it was a tiny black-and-white model that someone had unloaded on them. Though a real color TV was the first thing his fourteen-year-old self bought with his hard-earned paper route money, there's a little part of the adult boy that sees the logic behind his parents' no TV policy. TV, he says, is the reason so much of America seems so happy to act brain-dead. When you're spoon-fed a steady diet of reality TV and cheesy sit-coms, there's not a whole lot of thinking necessary to process what you're taking in. And to some extent, I suppose, he might be right.

But me, I grew up in a house where at any given moment during an evening, there was a good chance that the boob tube would be on. After dinner, my mother, father, two brothers and I would shift from the dining table on over to the family room. Mom would pick up the Chinese newspaper or catch up on her sewing. We kids would open up our backpacks, take out our books, and start in on the night's homework. Meanwhile, Dad would settle into his corner of the room, reaching for his work with one hand and the remote control with another. While we each plugged away at our own separate tasks, that TV set provided a background soundtrack that bound us together. (Far from detracting from my studies, I became an expert at working in distracting conditions, a skill that certainly came in handy freshman year of college when my roommate and her friends would be whooping it up while I crammed for some mid-term.) And when we finished our work, or when we needed a break, the whole family would watch TV together. Every once in awhile, it might have been a documentary, something "good" for us to stir up thinking and debate. But more often, it was some stupid sitcom or farfetched drama, exactly the sort of mindless drivel that anti-TV types are always sniffing their noses at. And we liked it -- liked laughing, and talking about the characters, and relaxing. Together.

So I've never looked towards my TV set to make me smarter. It can do that, occasionally; the rare good shows that are out there have genuinely stimulated and inspired me, as much as a great book or a fine film, both of which I also quite enjoy. But these days, most of the good shows (and a lot of the crap too) are available on DVD. No need to conform to some network's programming schedule when you can get a whole season's worth of your favorite shows on DVD, right?

amble on this way cowboy


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