Thursday, May 25, 2006
Puzzled by how little there is to watch on TV
My TV remote went missing a few days ago, and it was quite a problem having to change the channels by hand, even though my recliner sits within arm’s reach of the set. I am an inveterate channel surfer, and being used to living alone, I find it almost impossible to watch television with anyone else, especially if the other person is an “alpha male,” who insists on controlling the remote. For this reason I almost never see entire programs, but only bits and snatches of many telecasts. As soon as a commercial comes on, I’m off scanning for greener pastures.
Now that my remote has turned up (I had used it as a makeshift bookmark for my Bible when the telephone rang) — we will not even comment on why it took nearly a week for me to notice my mistake — I am puzzled again and again at how little there is to watch on TV. I remember growing up in the Mississippi Delta when there were only five channels in the early days.
Most of the stations did not come on the air until about 9 a.m., and I recall as a child playing before the television, waiting for the station to come on, with the test pattern of an Indian chief with feathers as the only thing to watch. Do they even show those old test patterns any more, and why was it always an Indian chief?
My friend Garrie Colhoun worked for the TV station in Greenwood for a few years and tells some wonderful tales about how they had to improvise to keep the station running in those early years. But somehow it seems to me that there was more of interest to watch then than there is now, even though we have a good many more channels.
Weather channel aficionados find the experience hypnotic. A good test is to ask the person what the weather is going to be. Chances are they cannot tell you. I made this observation in the barbershop the other morning and one of the sitters remarked that even though he did not watch all the weather maps, he did enjoy the music. Other weather channel watchers have definite opinions as to which forecaster is their favorite, and about the fashions they wear.
All I can say is that when I actually want to know what the weather is doing, the weather channel is giving a lengthy report on Siberia, or some other place far away and irrelevant to my plans.
I do notice that the extremes of weather always seem to come on the weekends, which is deleterious to church attendance and has an adverse effect on our congregation’s utility bill.
I’m also distressed by the religious programming that comes on our Holly Springs cable. There are at least two stations with tearful evangelists, working miracles and pleading for money, 24 hours a day.
Not only is it the fact that not one television preacher on our stations expresses theology I represent, it is that I wonder about people who sit and watch preaching all day long.
The Bible says, “Go into the world,” and except for the infirm, who I hope are comforted by the programs, I think the rest of us need to turn off the set and get busy with good works instead of watching endless religious TV. Religion has a social aspect that just cannot be fulfilled by television.
Well, I’ve found my remote now, so I’ll say no more. Television is a wonderful medium, capable of much good in our world. But like any other medium, including religion, we ought to be more discerning in the use we make of it.
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