Television promised to revolutionize the world. It did. If 500 channels of mediocrity is a revolution. What happened? Lowest. Common. Denominator. The path of least resistance.
The original promise of television was education, information; the combination of audio and video in a medium without bounds. Everyone could learn anything by watching TV.
What we learned is that people don’t learn much from watching TV.
Does anyone learn to speak intelligibly from watching television characters who speak near perfect English? Apparently not. For some reason, the television programs in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama are translated into their local dialects, so children there never learn how children everywhere else speak.
In the end, children who grow up watching television programs don’t learn to speak the same way as those who star in the television programs. If they did, children all over the country would sound like they’re from Nebraska.
Television doesn’t teach viewers to think, either.
Every show has a nice, well-wrapped ending from a time-honored plot. Time honored in that the same plot and ending has already been broadcast; either last year or five years ago, or during an old I Love Lucy episode (has there been any new comedy since then?).
How about Meet the Press? Isn’t that a great opportunity for leaders to be interviewed for all to see, all over the country? Oh, but that it were so. Such a stage is ripe for politicians and newsmakers to avoid direct answers and pound the airwaves with their own agenda, cleverly disguised as an answer to a question.
How about the news? What can you learn about what’s happening when the longest story is two minutes, the average story is 30-seconds. Sound bytes are shorter than chewing bites.
If children don’t learn from television, what good is it for anyone?
Face it; TV is a good babysitter, the primary purpose of the device when facing children younger than, say, 28. It even babysits adults. Why else would someone watch Deal or No Deal reruns?
Television’s value is not as a learning medium– it’s to babysit young and old, senile, juvenile, nubile. Without interactivity, television is a one way street to, a feeding trough for those too lazy to think, expand, consider, and question.
What’s next for television? More of the same but with a different name. Last Comic Standing will beget The Secret Lives of Politicians. CSI Miami will beget Teenage Mutant CSI Ninja Housewives of Peoria.
In the future, our television screens may simply be a colorful, interactive display mechanism for internet-originated programs. It’ll be 5-million programs, and nothing on.