Allow me to put a new spin on comedian Henry Youngman's signature phrase, “Take my wife – please!”
Take My Television – please! To be more precise, take my hundred some odd channels and replace them with quality programming – please.
I've watched a few of the networks' newest offerings. Clearly, the pristine, “sleeping single” days of television are over. Back in the day, married couples like the Petries and the Ricardos were not permitted to share a bed, and network censors blew a gasket if anything slightly less than tasteful attempted to cross the airways. Nowadays, television couples parade through their sitcom world wearing (or not wearing) fashion that would make Laura Petrie blush, and reality television has standardized once shunned expletives. Call me old-fashioned, but sometimes I think television needs to re-evaluate its current standards.
Television programming reflects current social and cultural norms. In the 1960s, when American families were comprised of a Dad with job and a Mom with an apron, sitcoms presented similar television families viewers could relate to. Thus, Laura Petrie spent a lot of time in her kitchen; ditto Lucy Ricardo and best friend Ethel Mertz. Beaver Cleaver's Mom baked a lot of cookies and wore dresses everyday, while his Dad wore suits and carried a briefcase. Fast forward to the more progressive 70s: Mike and Carol Brady slept in one bed in a house with a blended family, and Mary Richards, a thirty something, single woman, carved a career for herself working in a newsroom. Those of us who lived through the 60s and the 70s recognize how television mirrored the social norms of the day. Those of us who did not can peak at what life was like back then by viewing that era's television offerings.
In years ahead, what will current television programming say about us? What will future generations think of Kim Kardashian's wedding, for example, billed as “Kim's Fairytale Wedding,” a two day special event? What will my grandchildren say about reality television? What will they think of The Situation and Snooky? What will they think of Whitney, Alan and Charlie Harper, Kendra, or the straight-shooting Millionaire Matchmaker? Television programming both mirrors and educates our society. Today, we have several hundred television stations, all of which, as unwitting commentary on our current value system, create a lasting sociological legacy for those who come after us. Future generations, I fear, will examine our present programming and possibly conclude that we are a celebrity obsessed, materialistic society where an individual is judged on his/her looks, bigger is better, and current events are not as important as entertainment network “news.”
When I was a kid, and there were only seven television stations, I often whined to my mother that there was nothing good to watch on TV. Little did I know I was predicting the future.