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Gen X TV: The Brady Bunch to Melrose Place (Television and Popular Culture)
Gen X TV: The Brady Bunch to Melrose Place (Television and Popular Culture)
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by Douglas L. LeBlanc


Two Cheers for TV

Television is stupid, sleazy, and violent. It rots the brain and turns little children into insatiable consumers. So why do we watch it?

Last summer, when my wife, Monica, and I took a long-overdue vacation together, I volunteered to leave behind my laptop computer and to avoid all television. On the first morning of our vacation in Seattle, while worshiping in a suburban church, we heard of Princess Diana's violent death.

At the Seattle-Tacoma airport the following Saturday, waiting for a flight home, I saw reporter Bernard Shaw offering brief closing thoughts as Cable News Network wrapped up its live coverage of the funeral for Princess Diana. I saw CNN's obligatory "video logo" and somber theme music about her death—the sort of thing cnn usually reserves for wars, presidential elections, or political scandals. I had not missed TV during the week, and I had not pleaded with Monica to turn on the set in any of the places we stayed.

Suddenly, though, I felt a bit cheated—cheated out of the pathos of watching TV for the four hours between the crash and Diana's death; cheated out of hearing her brother excoriate the tabloid press; cheated even of hearing Elton John sing his maudlin anthem "Candle in the Wind," reworded in honor of the fallen princess. Covering the sudden loss of Princess Diana was, quite simply, one of the things TV does best: an epic, live drama that unites the global village.

Several such global village experiences have emerged in the lifespan of TV. In my own lifetime, I would cite these: the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Kennedy brothers; the mind-numbing mass suicides in Jonestown; the Iranian hostage crisis; the attempted assassination of President Reagan; the one-and-only Super Bowl broadcast of Macintosh's "1984" commercial; the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle; the fall of the Berlin Wall; the fall of Jim Bakker's PTL empire; the fall of Jimmy Swaggart's empire; the hope and terror of Tiananmen Square; the Gulf War; the agonizing Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings; the FBI siege in Waco; the bombing in Oklahoma City; and the still-unfolding ...

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