21st Century Digital Boy: TV Turn-Offs, Sylar Knifed, and Bye-Bye Dorothy

e00005201TV Turn-Off Week: While it’s not my official excuse for being away from you, this is my story and I’m sticking to it: Last week was “TV Turnoff Week”—an opportunity for the boobtube addicted (like me) to take a break and concentrate on the lost art of what us late ’70s/early ’80s kids used to experience as “family time” and “outside time.” Back then, family and outside time was more than just important… it was a way of life.

I grew up in an era when television was really hitting its stride and swelling with popular culture. We also had the hottest video gaming system in the universe (the Atari 2600) back then as well—the retro equivalent of the Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation and Xbox 360 all rolled into one. But we knew when to turn it all off.

Never mind that some of us remember what black and white television was like; we also knew the guerilla George Lucas Marketing™ on commercial television when we saw it. Everything was ultra-marketed. But none of those things seemed to be our undoing, because we knew how to park it in front of the small screen AND how to use our imaginations when our TV time was up. Our parents had a hand in that action. And we burned up whatever junk food we scarfed up by running around like banshees outside.

Our parents kept and eye on the clock and sent us out into the yard, where you’d re-enact your Starsky & Hutch, Knight Rider, The Dukes of Hazzard, Battlestar Galactica or Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episode(s) you just watched, or talked about how well you played Space Invaders and Pac-Man that week. The neighborhood kids were all into TV and video games, but they often spent four to five times the number of outside hours as inside. Especially during the prime outdoor seasons.

Back then, you didn’t see the level of obesity in kids (or adults, for that matter) that you do now. Or the level of mental “checking out” that you see in a lot of kids today. Everyone seemed to know when to turn it off and focus on physical activity. The boobtube wasn’t babysitting.

Excessive use of any small screen for recreation keeps you (and your kids, if you have them) anchored in the house. It’s not healthy mentally, physically, emotionally. Learn more about what you can do to restore some balance in your household here. And spend some time quality time with your family and friends outside and using your imagination once in a while. It will make you appreciate the “check-out” time even more.

OK, public service announcement ended. On to the remaining headlines for the week…

A Heroes Season Finale: Tonight at 9 pm/ET, NBC’s smash superhero show rocks it hard, bringing their Fugitives storyline to a close. Emile “The Hunter” Danko’s situation isn’t looking too good right now. He’s plunged a knife into Sylar’s head; the twisted shape-shifter antagonist then complained of a headache. Perfect! Danko — the senior agent of the US Department of Homeland Security, spearheading the hunt for “evolved humans”— is reminding me of the Senator Robert Kelly storyline in X-Men a bit. Anyone else? With a minor writing lull transpiring last season, this reviewer is wondering where Heroes will pivot. It could go in a completely fresh, interesting and relevant new direction, or jump the shark with a Marvel “Mutant Massacre”-like storyline next season.

Speaking of uninspired: Anyone caught Fox’s animated series Sit Down, Shut Up? With the blockbuster success of everything from The Simpsons and South Park, to the twice-shuttered (now beloved) Family Guy, it seems everyone has an animated show up his sleeve. This show aims to capture the angst of being in high school… from the faculty perspective. It’s a great concept that has oodles of promise, but it could easily give up its creative fire faster than Comedy Central’s send-up of “Bush 43,” L’il Bush. Sit Down has its moments, but the animated comedy needs some help in the writing department.

beaR.I.P. Bea Arthur: It’s hard not to love (and miss) the tough-as-nails demeanor of the Emmy award-winning comedienne, actress, and singer. She did more for world of television (arguably) than her TV mentor, All in the Family catalyst Norman Lear. The vocal liberal feminist was a counterweight to Lear’s Archie Bunker (remember how he called Arthur’s Maude a “New Deal fanatic”?) and embodied the spirit of empowerment for women everywhere. Without Arthur and her Maude character, there would have been no Alice, no Mary Tyler Moore, no Roseanne… no Murphy Brown. Even when Arthur was leading the “blue-hair charge” in the brilliant Golden Girls series, which she anchored with Rue McClanahan, Estelle Getty and Betty White, she didn’t take any crap from anyone. How could anyone not admire that?

Bye-bye, Dorothy.




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  • Bob

    Nice tribute, Peter. Ms. Arthur will be missed.

  • Bob

    Nice tribute, Peter. Ms. Arthur will be missed.

  • Bob

    Nice tribute, Peter. Ms. Arthur will be missed.