It feels somewhat ungrateful to complain in today’s television environment, with so many well-written, superbly acted shows available, that the screen is destroying the page. But it’s true, especially if you pause to consider that reading fiction is something that requires time, time away from a screen. More and more, though, Americans don’t have the time to think, let alone to read. They are working harder and less efficiently than ever (and in many cases, for less money than ever). In this environment, there is no better delivery system than the image for themes which transport – because that’s how our eyes work the rest of the day. The Sopranos does the imagining; our eyes need only follow.
The last TV show I actually followed was Babylon 5, which ended in 1998, so all I know about The Sopranos is what I pick up from articles like this.
We prefer to take the money we would have spent on Cable TV and use it to buy DVDs that we really want to watch. Also, family members will sometimes fill up a videotape with shows like Zaboomafoo and Between the Lions, and the kids will watch them over and over. So we actually have a pretty big library of videos for the kids to choose.
My five-year-old is used to waking up at about 8am for a “show, drink, and a snack,” and I typically include something fun-but-educational in the list of three or four suggestions I make when I let her choose what she wants to watch. Then, typically I will fall back asleep on the couch with her, or I might get my laptop out and check my e-mail. My nine-year-old son will often wake up before the movie is over, and usually they will start playing together when the movie is over. For one of his three daily lessons (7 days a week, year round, though we will count a family trip to a local historical site or ordinary kid stuff like piano lessons or swim classes), Peter will sometimes watch a documentary or a move set during the time period he’s studying.
So I’m not pretending that the television set is not a part of my life. My wife does watch TV news on a regular basis, and she enjoys some of the late night talk shows, but I’m usually putting the kids to bed and sometimes falling asleep on the floor after reading the good-night story. We’ve been trying to find a good evening to watch Time Bandits together as a family, and I’m looking forward to that.
But right now, my five-year-old daughter has just finished writing a poem about snow, and I’m off to help her cut paper snowflakes. If I can find an index card, I’m going to cut a hole in it that’s big enough for my children to crawl through.