Watching TV And Thankful For It

Jerry Coffee
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Wednesday - November 21, 2007
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Little could I have known the first time I watched television on my grandparents’ snowy, eight-inch screen featuring pro wrestling’s “Gorgeous George” in the mid-1940s that a “TV” would become the No. 1 item on every newlywed’s or college kid’s furniture starter list - the centerpiece of the household.

And now, every time I look at High Definition TV, it’s like the first time I put on eyeglasses when I didn’t know how badly I needed them.

Wow! I had no idea how much I’ve been missing!

Cable and satellite reception, and digital video recorders (DVR) are becoming integral parts of this emerging technology, the latter allowing us to preserve the dinner hour for conversation and viewing our favorites later.

And now, of course, the proliferation of different specialty channels is mind-jamming, and the quantity of quality viewing choices continues to multiply. “Just watching TV” no longer necessarily carries the stigma of wasting time, or the perception of “Joe Six-pack vegging out on the living room couch.”

To be sure, there are still Joe Six-packs among us and, worse yet, too many children have unbridled access to everything from drivelous, sexually inuendoed, canned laughter “sitcoms” to hard-core porn. But the beauty of it all is that we have freedom of choice. And for those who care enough to choose it, TV has the power to enrich our lives like never before.

There are the choices of PBS fare like the recent Ken Burns series, The War, which better than anything to date blended both the European and Pacific theaters of combat with the war’s impact on the home front.

Here in Hawaii, many of us learned for the first time that our antiaircraft gunners shot down not only several attacking aircraft, but also three of our own B-17 bombers that unluckily arrived from the Mainland during the attack. And PBS’s Charlie Rose, although sometimes rather pompously, interviews, in depth, world political and business leaders, statesmen, authors and artists, thereby providing a more intellectual choice than the late-night inanities of Letterman and Leno.

The History Channel, the National Geographic Channel, the “Biographies” Channel, the Military Channel are chock-a-block with educational programming while providing fascinating peeks into the little explored corners of our universe and its history.

Television literally brings sports into our homes, fostering a sense of connection to the “world out there,” loyalty to our own collegiate and professional teams, and an appreciation for the skill and dedication of our athletes as they set examples of excellence for us all. And appreciation is never higher than during the broadcasts of the Olympic Games, the World Cup, Wimbledon, the World Series or the Super Bowl.

We also have quality choices in mainstream programming. For example, a season of 24 or The Unit, with their circuitous plots and gripping suspense, can be every bit as as satisfying as a novel by Le Carre or Clancy.

Possibly the most underappreciated program is Friday Night Lights, based upon Texas high school football. The acting is excellent as the show deals with a myriad of both adult and teen social issues, all with a healthy moral theme underlying simultaneous plot lines. FNL is the quintessential family program that should be watched and discussed, especially with teens.

Boston Legal, despite an openly liberal agenda and a “viewer discretion advised” caveat, embodies all the clever dialog and improbable comedy of a good Broadway play - every week!

And for pure, glitzy entertainment that embodies unprecedented choreographic creativity, the blending of professional and amateur talent, and the suspense of competition, Dancing With The Stars is simply the best.

Television, for better or worse, has become our primary means to be not only entertained, but also to be informed citizens.

But just as we have a choice in what we watch, we also have a choice in what we believe, keeping in mind that even though few things are simply black and white, there is ultimately still an absolute truth.

And the neatest part of all, we are free to control the whole thing, simply depending upon the numbers we punch on the remote.

So this Thanksgiving I’m thankful to God for that freedom, for my family, my country and the men and women who protect it, and - strange as it may seem - my 42-inch HD Panasonic.

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