PEN&INKee^POSSIBILITIES: The vices and virtues of television ee^

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By Kirsten Laskey

TV can be a real hazard – a roadblock on the path toward accomplishing any item on a to-do list. I’ve known people who avoid the contraption altogether because it makes them drift away from productivity. As a child, I took an art class at the local recreation center and I remember the teacher proudly commented her TV was stowed away in a closet and was only brought out in times of dire need – to watch landmark events in action or the newest big disaster.

But there are others who view TV in a different light. It’s a necessity; a home is not complete without it. When one of my roommates in college became pregnant and subsequently dropped out of school, she took everything from a jug of bleach to her shiny, black TV with her. During this event, my other roommate was overly concerned about replacing the television. Where would she find one, my roommate wondered and how much would it cost?

For me, I see the device’s virtues and vices.  

When I am alone in my apartment, I usually turn on the TV to avoid doing whatever it is I am supposed to being doing.

But in the company of family, the TV transforms into something else.  

As a kid, my family and I would gather around the set and guffaw over the sitcoms “Perfect Strangers” and “The Cosby Show.”

Years later, my sister and I flipped on our parents’ old set with the knob dials and watched a series of shows every Friday night. I believe the hour of programming was called TGIF (Thank Goodness It’s Friday) but in response to the shows’ fluffy material, my sister and I dubbed it “Stupid Night.”

Admittedly there is always something more valuable to do with your time than sit in front of a television screen. All these memories of watching TV with my family share a feeling of delight, having spent an hour or so together and just having fun.

It felt different from our other interactions: getting assistance on math homework or being told to eat all the vegetables on the dinner plate. Whether it was playing a board game, going on a trip or watching TV, these family-get-togethers were purely for entertainment purposes. There were no rules or obligations to fulfill.

As a result, I never pass up on the opportunity to watch a program that is a family-favorite.  

I don’t even think my tastes in viewing material have changed that much over the years. When I was little, my family and I loved to view the variety show, “Solid Gold.” It was great. The show had everything – dancers wearing sparkly costumes and several pop stars of the day. I still remember admiring Tiffany’s spunkiness as she sang “I think We’re Alone Now.”  

Twenty-some odd years later, “Solid Gold” may have left TV land but I can still see its mark on the small screen with my newest favorite show, “So You Think You Can Dance?”

This dancing competition has roped my sister’s and my interest for years. We cluster in front of the TV every Wednesday to watch the young dancers perform to current pop song hits.

Best of all, it has captured the attention of the youngest generation of our family. My niece and oldest nephew will watch the program every so often and they even step it up a notch by actively responding the events on the screen. While watching a pair of dancers leap across the stage last week, my niece announced she could do it better and immediately started jumping across the living room. Not to be beaten, my nephew replied, “Oh yeah? Watch this!” and promptly began leaping in front of my sister and I.  

My family has grown up, moved out and created new branches of the family tree, but experiences like this one remind me no matter what changes come our way, we still know how to have fun whether we are gathered around the TV or not.