I've never been one of those parents who think TV is bad for kids. Story-telling throughout the ages of human existence has been a very important way that we communicate our experiences to each other and make our personal dramas more universal. And naturally, we tell our stories with whatever the latest technological method available is, be it cave drawings, oral histories, writing, film and television or Twitter.
As a therapist and parent, I also have never been one to fear that what kids see on TV will adversely effect their minds or behavior. Much more goes into the healthy development of a child's psyche and emotional make-up than what they watch on TV, like the mental and emotional states of their parents and teachers, and of course, the basics, like nutrition, exercise and rest.
That being said, my complaint about television, especially network TV, is that so much of what is shown in prime time, presumably for adults, is unwatchable, unless you're heavily medicated, which is why I guess there's so much advertising on network for pharmaceuticals. Even worse, the glimmers of hope that occasionally appear end up getting canceled prematurely because of mediocre ratings early on, which has everything to do with how much control advertisers have over network television. Quality shows that may need a little time to catch on frequently get a quick axe.
Two recent examples are ABC's "LIFE ON MARS," and NBC's "KINGS."
Life On Mars featured Jason O'Mara as a cop from our time who has been mysteriously transported back to 1973, where he had to work with Michael Imperioli's vulnerable misogyny and Harvey Keitel's gruff sentimentality, pleasantly off-set by Gretchen Mol's ever-tolerant but stalwart feminism. The chemistry between the principles was great and the stories, though very Law and Order-ish in formula, worked when complimented by the humorous reminders of 1970's life in New York. Life On Mars aired its 17th and final episode last night, a patched-together clunker that was supposed to be a season finale, but had to be turned into a series finale, very clearly on short notice, and with little dedicated, creative thought. Harvey Keitel literally, and absurdly, walking on Mars in his white penny-loafers is a final image I will definitely need to purge from my psyche!
King is still airing on NBC, but after three episodes and lackluster ratings, there are already rumblings that it won't finish the season, and it seems as if the plug has been pulled on further promotion of the show. That's a shame. Kings is a great leap forward for network TV in that it plays like a show made for HBO (without the sex - unfortunately). The design and photography are lush, the characters are grave and complex, and very well-acted, especially that of the nefarious "King Silas," played by Ian McShane, and the story-lines are literally Biblical. I hope NBC gives this one a little gestation time because it could help to lift the network out of its stagnant last place berth.
Which brings me to my question: What's wrong with network TV?
Well, why would the executives of the big three established TV networks be any different than the CEO's of the big three established automakers in the U.S.? They're very wealthy fat cats stuck in time (1973 perhaps?) who've made their fortunes for the last 30 years with very little change or innovation in their product or approach. So, I guess that means that the only hope for them, and the viewing audience, is to hit bottom. Oh well. Change is inevitable. Maybe I'll write a show for HBO one day!