This post has nothing to do with the 45th Vice President of The United States.
Unless he wants to help me.
Those Friday nights were heaven for ten-year old girls. The Brady Bunch. The Partridge Family. Room 222. Love American Style. It was a whole evening, full of one good television show after another. I wanted to be Jan Brady. My best friend wanted to be Laurie Partridge. Together at one of our homes, or separately with our families, my friend and I would park ourselves on the couch at 7:00 p.m. when The Brady Bunch started and would not get up until 10:00 p.m. as the last strains of the Love American Style theme faded out.
During the commercials between shows were our times to discuss whatever show we had just seen.
“Did you see Marcia’s outfit? Wasn’t that cute?”
“Yeah, but the skirt was kinda short.”
“I’m gonna ask my mom if she’ll make me one like that.”
“I liked her poncho.”
“Didn’t you love that song they sang tonight?”
“Yeah, I wonder if it’s on their album.”
“Reuben bugs me.”
“Yeah, me too.
It was a time of deep thoughts, ponderous reflections, and shared feelings. It was also a time of innocence on TV.
I could watch TV for three hours straight and the only thing that scared me was my brother, mocking in a falsetto, “Oh Greg Brady, you’re soooooo cute!”
Times, sadly, have changed. TV viewing by my son must be constantly monitored to avoid freak out moments like he had a few weeks ago.
I first boycotted TV at my house several years ago when Jeremiah was small. We were watching a show together one night, a program geared toward children. During a moment of surfing, while the commercials were on, I was put in a position of having to protect my son from what he saw.
In a few short minutes, during commercials designed to get people to watch certain shows, Jeremiah was freaked out. First--by people screaming at a skeleton walking down a hall, second-- by a shot of a severed finger, and third-- by a man handling a human skull.
I was enraged. I purposely didn’t let my young son watch those types of shows. To be confronted by such gore during their commercials was something I had not planned on. He begged me to shut off the TV that night.
We went a long time without TV. If we wanted to watch Lost or Dancing with the Stars, we downloaded it from the network website and watched on our computer. Commercial-free.
Recently, in order to take advantage of a Wii game system that someone had given us for Christmas last year, we had to buy a new television set. Ours was beyond old, but since we only used it to watch DVD’s of our choosing, it didn’t matter.
My husband came home with an antenna shortly thereafter. We were excited because we had not realized that we could now catch all the local stations and in High Def to boot! The shows we formerly downloaded to our computer we now could watch on our television.
And once again, I am enraged.
We set aside Monday nights as family night. Dancing with the Stars and 24 were two of our favorite shows, so we would gather around with snacks for a family evening. If the phone rang--tough. “It’s Bauer hour!” we would laugh as the answering machine picked up.
The laughing didn’t last long. Commercials for slasher movies and gore-intensive TV shows assaulted us. Jeremiah would yell, “Shut it off! Shut it off!” and we would quickly turn the channel or mute the commercial, while he plugged his ears and closed his eyes. We told him when it was "safe."
Soon after starting family night, we found out about a new show called Castle. It looked intriguing, humorous and intelligent. Tim and I watched it the first night it aired, and since it was in the 9:00 spot, we sent Jeremiah to go hit the shower and get ready for bed. The show reminded us of old Moonlighting episodes, with the witty repartee between the main characters. I was even pleasantly surprised that the show was gore- free. I told all my friends to watch it. It was my new favorite.
Episode by episode, as the weeks went by, the gore-factor was kicked up a notch. Finally, one night, Jeremiah came into the room after taking his shower and began screaming. He hid his eyes and ears and kept screaming “Turn it off!” I did not know what was wrong until I looked back at Castle and saw the leading man holding a severed head in his hand. Jere cried and begged me to never watch that show again. I promised him I would not.
That night during his prayers, he begged to have that image removed from his mind.
There are certain shows that I know enough not to watch, C.S.I. being the great- granddaddy of them all. I don’t go to slasher movies either. [I have friends who use C.S.I. as the blood-barometer by which they judge other shows—“Is it less bloody than C.S.I? ”] I am not complaining that these shows feel the need to show gore in order to feel loved. That’s their right and I don’t want to take that right from anyone. But I have the right not to watch them, which right I exercise diligently.
What I will stand up for is my right to watch the shows I want to watch, without being bombarded by gory commercials for the shows I don’t want to watch. If the networks feel that the only way they can convince the public to watch their shows is by displaying bloody body parts, then that is indeed a sad commentary on what our society has become.
Last night, while watching the two-hour episode of So You Think You Can Dance, a noted gore-free show, my husband switched channels to see what else was on. We were affronted by a commercial for The Mentalist. Lying there in the middle of a road, enticing me to watch the program, was a severed arm! That sure made my ten year old’s night!
Networks, please pay attention. There are people in this country who are offended by your insensitivity to human decency. I am alone amongst my friends, who all have DISH Network. One of the main reasons they all cite for subscribing to DISH, is the ability to fast forward past your commercials. You are spending your valuable airtime, trying to get people to watch your television shows, only to have people pay money to skip those very ads.
Do you wonder why more and more people are saying “enough” and are shutting off their TV’s? Do you really think that Americans have become so desensitized to your garbage that a severed arm laying in the road is no longer sickening? I’ve shut off my TV before and I will do it again.
Please, network executives, take us back to a day where we could gather around the TV as a family and have an enjoyable evening without being subjected to a commercial showing a gaping eye socket or a still-beating heart.