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Commentary: Kill Your Television?

By Todd Schoepflin


Buffalo, NY – Is there anyone who can honestly say they don't watch any television? I wonder if it's even possible to avoid watching television during a Buffalo winter. It seems inevitable that we rely on TV to help us survive the long winter season.

I'm always amused when I pull behind a car with the bumper sticker that says "Kill your television." I'd say there is some wisdom in that statement. I can't help but think we'd be better off if we didn't watch television. But try making it through a winter in Buffalo without doing so. Good luck. And I dare you to make it through a winter without television if you live in this climate and have a toddler to entertain. I doubt I could do it.

I'm home a lot with my 15-month-old son and since the weather turned cold we've gotten hooked on children's shows. Sadly, I am now familiar with NOGGIN network characters Moose A. Moose and Zee. Worse, I find them wildly entertaining. I can compare notes on Blue's Clues, Franklin, Little Bill, Yo Gabba Gabba, and Pinky Dinky Doo. I can go old school too, talking about the merits of Sesame Street and Curious George. When my son was first born my wife and I kept the TV off as much as possible. We'd play jazz music for him, hoping to instill an appreciation for Miles Davis and John Coltrane. We still hope he develops a taste for jazz, but at this point in his life Cannonball Adderley has no chance of competing with Elmo.

I don't exclusively watch children's shows but it probably won't be long before I do. During the 2008 presidential campaign I was attached to the cable news networks. I eventually got sick of the constant controversy and outrage most of which struck me as manufactured. I always seemed to be in a bad mood after switching back and forth between the channels, listening to assorted talking heads delivering negative commentary. There's so much gloom in the news. I'm better off watching positive messages of cooperation and sharing that I see in children's shows. The shows my son and I watch offer nice lessons in recycling, eating well, diversity, problem solving, and participating in community life. Meanwhile, the news offers depressing stories about crime, corruption, scandal, and tragedy. Is it any wonder I'm in a better mood after watching children's shows?

I'm thoroughly impressed with anyone who doesn't watch any television. I can't avoid TV, especially considering the weather is bitterly cold for so much of the year. I hope you don't think I'm a parent who sticks his kid in front of the TV all day long. That's not the case, but I am thankful there are some clever children's shows that we both enjoy. They really help break up long winter days. So I won't be killing my television anytime soon. Certainly not this winter. And honestly, probably not ever.

Listener-commentator Todd Schoepflin is chair of the Sociology Department at Niagara University.

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