Even good TV needs a makeover

It's not surprising that there's so much junk on TV. The industry is dominated by the bottom line, which usually translates into the lowest common denominator in terms of programming and a generally exploitative attitude toward children and adults.

What's surprising is how many worthy films and series make it to the air - given the ongoing antagonism to anything but "entertainment."

When TV execs are asked about shows that have social messages or moral perspectives, or even intelligent perceptions about society, they almost always say: "We don't have a message to send; we just want to entertain you."

Ah, but there's always a message. There's always a perspective.

You know what the good shows are, depending on taste, of course. From "West Wing" to "Masterpiece Theatre," from "The Simpsons" to "Gilmore Girls," there's a surprisingly wide variety of smart dramas, comedies, and satires.

Better yet, think of all the excellent documentaries - they go to television to really make an impact.

Of course, too much TV is bad - for anybody. As a TV critic, I should know. And even good TV could do a lot better, especially where children are concerned.

Consider the videotape "Baby Shakespeare," which I watched with my little granddaughter. Simple, beautiful poems are interspersed with funny puppets and animated drawings illustrating simple ideas. They move slowly - unlike "Sesame Street." They don't jangle a baby's sensibilities. I remembered how much promise TV held for a while and still could again. It's all in the motives.

Write to Arts & Leisure at entertainment@csps.com.

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