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TV Makes You Stupid
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June 2008      back to HDTV index

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TV is for idiots. I realized this when I was 7 years old and haven't owned a TV since.

I haven't watched TV since 1969. I worked in it for decades, and knew enough not to watch it. It makes you stupid, and my colleagues in the networks agree! Some of them would point out what a verbal beating they'd get from friends who actually saw what got broadcast. When you work in most aspects of TV, you rarely have time to watch what's going out.

My wife watches reality shows, saying "look how stupid this is." That's why people watch it; these shows are deliberately stupid. I remember when Bravo and A&E broadcast good stuff, but it only appealed to educated people, so today they're down in the mud wrestling with everyone else.

Movies are OK because they are art, like a painting, a play or a symphony. You have to pay to watch them.

TV is bad: it caters to sucking as many people as possible in to watch for the purpose of selling ads. Movies try to make people want to pay to see them, while TV just wants people to tune in just long enough to make a tick in Nielson's ratings.

TV is going away, since only older people are still watching. People today watch the Internet instead. The Internet can make you stupid or smart, depending on what you do there.

I realized that although I found TV programs like Get Smart, The Beverly Hillbillies, Twilight Zone and Star Trek entertaining, none of this was making me any smarter or more interesting.

I worked in TV ever since high school. Working in TV is very different from watching it. I used to design weapons of mass destruction, too, but never shot off a boomer myself, even if we simulated it plenty of times to make an honest living. We know better, and you should too.

You might think that my "TV is for idiots" mantra might not have gone over well working in Hollywood, but others in the biz agreed.

There is no such thing as idle time. Any time one person is watching TV, another person is reading, studying, exercising, and otherwise getting ahead of the loser in front of the TV.

Any time spent in front of TV is time that's putting one further and further behind.

TV is designed to attract as many viewers as possible. Programming is designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Language is kept to a fifth-grade level or below so it doesn't lose anyone.

PBS is even worse. PBS makes you at least as stupid, but it's worse because the people watching it have a sense of hubris, thinking that they are smarter than people watching other networks. That makes them watch more, and get even stupider.

Sure, once a week my wife brags that she learned something on TV. When I read books, even I learn something every minute.

The best TV seems to come from Fox. Murdoch is a master of media, and knows how to draw a crowd. This dawned on me in 2001 with Fox' "Marry a Millionaire," where a local San Diego comedian, who wasn't really a millionaire, had women dancing naked in front of him on stage. In two hours, he picked the one he wanted to marry. Women watched the show in astonishment, called their friends to watch "this horrible thing," and Fox made TV history. I had to live that down for a few years, because that comedian used my last name for his stage name.

It's funny how many grown-ups don't know that TV is pretend. As attributed to Murdoch, "the purpose of news is to entertain, not to inform." My wife watches TV and believes it. Even the news is pretend; have you ever seen all the credits for writers at the end? (or have those been squeezed-back too far?)

I've heard rumor that there might be some people who think I'm smart, but I'm barely riding in the front seat of the short bus. The only way I'm able to pass is because all the time most people are sitting in front of a TV, I'm off trying to learn something. I'm not smart at all, it's just that TV has made so many people so much stupider.

TV is only getting worse as it fades away.

The ancient Romans knew how to draw a crowd. Back in the good old days, a carnival was exactly that: they brought in animals and slaughtered them for the public, free. Also expect more televised executions, beatings, car chases and people getting killed as caught on security cameras. We all thought they were kidding on Monty Python when they suggested showing the freeway, but that's what we get today in America.

I could go on, but please remember that watching TV is about as helpful as smoking pot. Some people might enjoy it, and it makes money for the people providing the goods, but it lowers your IQ. If you've got extra smarts you might survive, but it's not helping you.



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