Check your TV guide, International Television Day is coming.
It’s been said by many in recent years: we have access to more television stations than ever before but there is less worth watching!
This notion proved very real for me on a recent Sunday night when I decided it was time to put the feet up and veg out in front of the TV before bed beckoned and another week of work. I looked at the TV guide and had a choice of half a dozen inane reality shows, various cooking shows, several house reno shows (literally like watching paint dry) and three B-grade movies from the 1980s. I decided to read a book.
I’m old enough to remember (but only just, he adds defensively) the Sunday night movie blockbuster. On a Sunday night, all three of the ‘big’ stations — Channels 7, 9 and 0, sorry, 10 — would vie to show the biggest movie. Take your choice: on Channel 7 was the nightmare-producing Jaws, on Channel 9 was the high emotion of Kramer vs Kramer, and on Channel 10 was the brilliant Peter Sellers in Being There.
Nowadays it’s a choice between TV shows about a girl looking for love on an island, a girl looking for love in a houseful of men, or a girl looking for love while cooking a croquembouche in a house being renovated by people who survived the jungle and are distantly related to a celebrity.
However, in the midst of all the dross is some gold. Every now and then a television show comes along that is well-scripted, well-produced and well-acted, or a ‘special’ is shown that proves truly informative or entertaining, or a show is aired that challenges or changes the lives of those who watch it.
This is why, in 1996, the UN General Assembly declared 21 November to be annual International Television Day. They recognised the influence television has around the world and its ability to educate, inform and excite people about global, national and local issues.
The UN knows that television is invaluable in disseminating information and communicating key messages to people and that it allows people to learn quickly what is happening in their world.
Does the UN celebrate mindless shows about getting celebrities out of jungles when they chose to be there in the first place? Well, in a strange sort of way, yes. The UN says that television is a means of celebrating freedom of expression and interest and if people want to watch shows about gardens growing, well, they’re allowed to.
What sorts of shows do you like watching? Do you feed your mind with quiz shows and documentaries and ‘whodunnit’ movies? Maybe you need the emotional tug of a soapie or a rom-com or a dating show. Or maybe escapism is your main need at the end of a working day and you survive on a diet of superhero series and sci-fi flicks.
Have you considered how what you watch impacts you and forms your character? Do you remember the old computer acronym GIGO — ‘garbage in, garbage out’ — that referred to how the quality of the output was based on the data entered? What if the same applies to what you watch on TV?
In the Bible, Paul wrote to the people in the city of Philippi advising them: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things” (Philippians chapter four, verse eight).
Maybe ponder that the next time you reach for the remote. There’s great TV, there’s good TV and there’s really, really bad TV. Garbage in, garbage out.
Mal Davies is a Salvation Army officer serving in Geelong