Prompt 058: Fix Daytime Teevee
58. If you've ever had a sick day at home, you know that afternoon TV isn't always the best. Imagine you're the head of a major TV network and you want to revolutionize daytime TV. How do you do it? Are you successful? Why or why not?
I don't own a television. I haven't for more than 15 years now. For a while I had one exclusively so I could hook up my NES, but I've pretty much abandoned television since maybe 2002 or so.
My relatives watch television almost constantly. My mother, in particular, watches pablum like "Say Yes to the Dress" but also checks pseudo-documentary/reality shows like the ones that document how people live in cabins in Alaska and northern Canada, stuff like that. Generally speaking, I am in complete agreement regarding "afternoon TV isn't always the best."
I had a conversation about this very topic over dinner with a friend of mine, and her reply was, "Something like PBS. Something that teaches actual skills. It may be boring, but it seems like a better alternative." I agree with her on this.
I wonder what it would be like if people could learn stuff with it. I have a feeling that television isn't about education for anyone over the intellectual age of 5 or 6. Beyond that, it's strictly entertainment and persuasion, which is a shame. I'd love to see a series of people being coached to do their own automobile repair, for example. Like "Dirty Jobs" but instead of Mike Rowe changing the oil all day, it's an old-skool, shade tree mechanic teaching some 19 year-old how to change the oil, replace the air filter, replace headlight lamps, change a tire, etc. o their beat-ass Toyota Corolla.
Imagine if cooking shows could help someone prepare food for their entire family on a specific budget. Instead of veal scalopini or whatever, they could prepare a nutritious, home-cooked meal for themselves and their three or four children. Imagine if there were shows about people applying for jobs, showing their interview practice, showing how they updated their resume to match the kind of job they want. how they build their personal network, what their typical day on the job requires, and so on. What about being trained as a public speaker? What about a community moderator: someone who helps people solve interpersonal problems without violence?
Practical-but-intimidating skills on "adulting," in the parlance of our times. These are already dramatic because every viewer has felt the same anxieties, had similar struggles. Yet, nearly everyone can also improve their lives in this area, and be inspired to do so when they see a little of themselves in the subject of nearly every episode.
News? One hour in the morning, one hour in the evening. Mmmmmaybe station breaks for special/tumultuous events. But that's it. Otherwise, people would read their news, or have it read to them from someone they know. Children's programming would largely stay the same, at least up to ages 5 to 6. Sesame Street is pretty fantastic, and there have been significant strides in terms of creating programs for early-childhood-age kids and toddlers.
Would this be successful? Well, define your measure of success. If it encourages people to go outside and do something active with their lives then I'd personally consider it a success. But I have an inkling that this isn't the main objective of most television programming. Which circles me back round to why I don't watch television.
As an aside, I've been on a few dates with a woman, and she is apparently a big television and movie watcher. She rarely reads books, and instead discloses that she "turns her brain off" to watch comedies and sitcoms, because she's totally drained by her work day and family issues. She is employed in a similar field as me, but as a government contractor instead of non-profit employee. I can see how those kinds of shows earn the ratings and stay on the air.
I am having second thoughts about us dating, but that seems largely an entirely different matter. It's not to do with her television-watching habits, at least.