Throw out the tube or grab TV Guide?

Sigh ... hundreds of channels, and there's still nothing on TV.

One more bio-flick about a celebrity famous for being famous. One more sitcom designed to make meaningless sex seem safe, intimacy easy, and heartbreak easily dismissed with a joke. One more cop show to make us suspicious of our real neighbors, fearful of our own streets, and certain that justice is seldom served.

OK, that's an exaggeration. There are good things on TV, though you really do have to search to find them. I know, I like writing about television. Still, as the new TV season approaches, it has more than its fair share of drivel in prime time. Almost all of daytime programming is obnoxious. Even TV's reason for being is suspect - that is, to sell stuff, whether we need it or not, whether or not it's good for us.

Maybe it's time to ask whether we should toss the box out the window (first making sure that there are no cats in the way). After all, what are we really getting out of all those hours of viewing?

A spunky newsletter, "The White Dot: Survival Guide for the TV-Free" ($8 for four issues from P.O. Box 577257, Chicago, IL 60657 or visit www.whitedot.org) makes you think about all those wasted hours in front of the tube.

"White Dot" points out that TV seems to anesthetize viewers, rob students of class time (cable in the classroom and worse), retard speech development in young children (while teaching aggression), and make community relations even harder than they already are.

"Television works best when it sells back to you what it took away in the first place," observes editor and publisher Jean Lotus. "People don't hang out with [real] friends, they watch reruns of 'Cheers' [or worse, 'Friends'] and don't know their neighbors."

But the newsletter is tongue-in-cheek, too. It's not puritanical or humorless. It's there to support those who choose to live with little or no television viewing.

A friend "threw his TV out the window after watching one of those daytime human-misery shows," she says. "And I thought, everyone knows someone who doesn't have a TV, so I should start a 'zine for them."

"White Dot" cites various studies to show the harmful influence of TV on children. Lotus realized that when it came to her own three children, not owning a set was "something simple I could do for them - not easy, but simple. Every minute they are not watching TV they are learning to amuse themselves and to motivate themselves."

Can any of us say we have ever regretted not having watched more TV?

On the other hand ... pass me the TV Guide.

*Send your comments on Arts & Leisure to entertainment@csps.com

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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