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Monday, February 20, 2006

TV Thanksgiving blessings

November 24, 2004

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. No gifts to buy. No eggs to color. No trips to the emergency room, when fireworks go amiss. It’s just a day to give thanks for all that is right in the world.
Since this is Tube Talk, it’s only right that I take time to count my TV blessings:

Remote control. Perhaps the most underrated device in the world of television, the remote control revolutionized couch potatoes everywhere. Yes, we all take it for granted now. But I remember the days when changing channels meant standing in front of the TV flipping that shiny silver dial between the only two choices I had: CBS and NBC. I recently read an article that today’s college freshmen have never lived in a world where televisions didn’t come with remote controls. Let’s be thankful that technology progressed so that these kids never had to know that kind of horror.

  • Closed captioning. I know I’m not the targeted audience for this helpful tool. But I use it all the same. Having the words appear on screen is sometimes the only way to decipher what those fast-talking kids on The O.C. are saying, not to mention The West Wing characters, who have practically made speed-talking an Olympic sport. Plus, you haven’t lived until you¹ve turned on the captions in Spanish and watched Friends Phoebe sing Smelly Cat.
  • Great lines. “Sometimes, evil drives a minivan.” That’s just one example of why I love scripted television. That hilarious gem was from Desperate Housewives this week. But there have been so many others in the course of television history. “No soup for you.” “How you doin’?” And “Danger, Will Robinson” have taken on a life of their own in the American vernacular.
  • Annual specials. There is no better harbinger of the changing seasons than the annual television special. Some people watch the weather to know just when the change happens. I watch TV. Early fall, it’s Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin. Thanksgiving, it’s the enormous balloons dwarfing New York City in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Winter, it’s Rudolph’s glowing nose, and New Year’s, it’s Dick Clark’s Rocking Eve. Who needs a calendar? Just turn on your TV.
  • Reality show ratings are down. Can we please all give thanks for this? Previous ratings hits such as The Bachelor and The Apprentice have lost viewers this season, just as scripted shows are coming on strong. With Lost and Desperate Housewives scoring ratings knockouts, perhaps this is the beginning of the end of the reality craze. Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?
  • Setting fashion trends. Television characters often influence fashion and hairstyles. Without the 90210 Peach Pitt gang, I never would have known sideburns were all the rage in the early ‘90s. Or that parachute pants were a fashion do in the ‘80s. Or that straight men could pull off wearing white suits, T-shirts, and no socks without being ridiculed. (They looked cool on Miami Vice.) I’m grateful for these colorful fashion trends. And that I never got around to wearing my too short Ally McBeal miniskirt.

Happy Thanksgiving, Tubers. Go easy on the turkey.

Originally published 11/24/04 in The Exponent Telegram newspaper.


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