Tuesday, April 25, 2006

TV Turnoff Week

This week is TV Turnoff Week, and we're trying to figure out if this applies only to new programming on broadcast TV or if it includes using the TV to watch DVDs and videos. We rarely watch TV as it is, though Josiah will watch educational kids' shows occasionally. (He wrote "PBS Kids" on his MagnaDoodle a few weeks ago. Brand awareness and loyalty sets in early.) The average American watches three or four hours of TV every day, and many households have the TV on each day for seven or more cumulative hours.

I realized a few years ago that the main reason I don't watch much TV is that it's so much more obviously a commercial/consumer medium than things like movies or books. I'm glad that novels aren't interrupted by pages of ads between chapters. Almost twenty minutes of an hour of TV now consists of commercials, which is double the amount that it was a few decades ago. Commercial sponsorship of TV is nothing new, but it just feels increasingly intrusive, as advertisers try to circumvent TiVo with product placement during the actual programming.

I'm also annoyed by the neverending nature of TV programming, especially when teasers for the next show entice Josiah to sit through the next half hour, and the next. We think he's a J on the Myers-Briggs, so he will (sometimes, not always) turn off the TV on his own when the closing credits roll if we have told him ahead of time to do so. But woe to us if we try to get him to leave a show in the middle of the episode! He likes closure.

We've also never been able to follow more than a couple of TV shows at a time; it's like we only have a capacity to build relationships with so many characters and storylines before we max out. We used to watch Friends and ER back in the 90s, and occasionally dipped into The X-Files, but tried to avoid falling into the weekly routine with an indefinite number of shows. The only way we watch TV shows now is via DVD, which allows us linear, sequential completion and the autonomy to watch as much or little as we want when we want (or whenever the discs come in from the library).

We are currently on season 3 of both Alias and Smallville, and Josiah and I recently watched season 2 of the original 80s Transformers cartoons. Part of me is thrilled that Josiah is enjoying the shows that I loved as a kid, but I'm also a bit conflicted over the fact that they're essentially half-hour long commercials for the toys. Thus far Josiah has just played with my old Transformers (and broken several) and not clamored to buy new ones, but I know I need to beware of the synergy between television and consumption. We already own way more Blue's Clues items than I ever thought imaginable.

But at least Josiah seems to understand the concept behind TV Turnoff Week. This morning he said, "It's a TV-off day?" That's right, no TV today. "Okay. No TV." Whew.


Craver Vii said...

TV turnoff week?! This must be a practical joke because if it was real, I would certanly have seen a commercial for it! (yuk-yuk)

Yeah, my main beef with the box is its irresistible power to consume much more time than we plan to give it. For that reason, I have one TV downstairs. And the (family room) is set up more like a guest bedroom, so we don't have comfy couches or recliners.

Rev. Dr. Stephen Lake said...

Al, you're going to need to get with the program if you are going to continue to be a member in good standing at Church of the Savior. Why? Because everyone, Bill and Linda included, watches "24"!!! (At a recent vestry meeting, we spent almost as much time talking about "24" as we did church business--well, not quite, but you get my point.)

Seriously, I agree with your concerns, especially as we try to rear a little one as well. I wish I'd known about this earlier, I'd have recorded "24" for later! ; )


Tonya said...

I could write a book here, but I won't. I'll just say I agree...and did you read my post for April 24?

I didn't know it was TV turnoff week!

Al Hsu said...

Steve - Ellen and I did borrow the first season of 24 from a friend and watched it straight through over the course of a couple of weeks, two or three episodes a night. It was great, but we weren't sure we should pick up season 2 anytime soon, precisely because it was so engrossing and addictive. Maybe that's another trait of serial TV that warrants caution! I'm sure it's all intentional, how 24 and other shows are structured with cliffhangers and plot twists and adrenaline rush pacing and all that. They want to create addicts. Or maybe it says something about us that we don't have enough excitement or drama in our own lives that we want to watch Jack Bauer or Sydney Bristow's traumas vicariously!