Monday, October 15, 2007

Kids and Vintage TV

One of my daughters reported that her friends regularly grill her on her television viewing, because the shows she watches seem so exotic in contrast to the everyday fare (Cartoon Network, basically) they're exposed to. I laughed nervously. We don't watch "shows" at all, really. We don't have cable, and regular TV reception is spotty, so we resort to DVDs. Star Trek, Get Smart, the occasional Gilligan's Island episode ... that's the weird, exotic stuff my daughters are watching.

I sometimes worry I might be embalming our household into a permanent "Nick At Night" stasis. Not that that's a bad thing, necessarily. If I were to make a massive generalization about kids these days and their viewing habits, I'd have two complaints: (1) the advertising (little has changed over the years, but who really needs it?); (2) the manic, zany pacing and chiefly cynical tone of most kids' shows. The latter really irritates me. Stream-of-consciousness Anime (Martin Mystery, or Sailor Moon) I can handle, but the current crop of North American cartooning strikes me as way too hip for its own good. Flash, zap, exaggerated emotional response followed by cool, half-lidded sideways glances ... feh. I'll take wide-eyed actors laboring over shop-weary plot-lines, thank you.

After I was told about this, I eavesdropped a little. Near as I can tell, what my daughters' friends are seeking out are stories that fit the Aristotelian mold. Garnish these with a few surprises (Agent 86 pulls a ladder out of his briefcase), and the imagination really takes off.

This can backfire, of course. We've held sleep-overs in which some of these sought-after shows are finally played to an all-new audience. It's not uncommon to get a "It's not as good as I was expecting" response. That's fine, too: television should never be as good as a kid expects. If it was, they'd never leave the house.


ジョエル said...

I don't know how old your daughters are. When I was in 5th and 6th grade Nick at Nite had just started showing "Get Smart" again, and it was very popular with me and my classmates. I was also a big original Star Trek fan, although that was something that I was largely on my own on. (Although the movies were very popular around that time. Star Trek IV was very a common choice to show at pizza parties). some of these old shows never loose their charm.

...Of course part of it is probably also that kids are easier to impress. Lots of stuff I watched on Nick at Nite back then (such as Bewitched of the Patty Duke show) not to mention the B rated 1950s science fiction movies I saw on AMC, I can't imagine sitting through now, but it entertained me then

DarkoV said...

Hate to be critical here, WP, but it sounds like your daughters' friends aren't as sophisticated as they are.
Look, it makes sense. You're feeding them with clever well-crafted TV classics. How could your daughters not be more advanced in their appreciation of subtlety and humor? Wonder what would happen if you had a sleepover and all-night Bullwinkle festival? I'm sure there would be complaints along the lines of, "What, no color?"

No, no, do not stray to the TV of "cool, half-lidded sideways glances ... feh" that you pointed out. Let them pick that up on their own in the teen-age years. And, if you're lucky as we have been, the feh will only last a short time.

I have to admit, though, that I do have a soft spot for Spongebob. There's a touch of the Bullwinkle in the cartoon.

Yahmdallah said...

Funny, but we're doing the same thing more or less purposely. Right now we have the first season of Gilligan's Island on DVD from the library. We've done Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, I Love Lucy, and of course Star Trek. The same thing happens on sleepovers, too. My daughter raved about Star Trek, so they sat down to an episode. The general critique was a shrug, "Well, it's ... ok."

Trent Reimer said...

It is easy to sell candy to children. An all-candy diet doesn't require any discipline.

Sadly the current generation of parents is the most candied yet and has little ambition to offer substance to its children. Will the next generation be even more sugared and dopey or will they rebel by exercising their minds and bodies?

Scott said...

Hmmm...contemporary kids' TV with a sense of both wide-eyed idealism and moral complexity...

Nope, can't think of a thing ;) lol

PS: sorry to take so long with your TV disc but I think I've made up for it -- watch the post!