Monday, February 20, 2006

TV or not TV

Helena was recently introduced to my 30-odd-year-old finger puppets. Bert's lost some hair over the years. I'm pretty sure I also owned Grover (my favourite) and Cookie Monster (everybody else's favourite) — I suspect their heads were bitten off, or maybe whatever toxic material they're made of simply disintegrated with overuse. While Helena enjoys them, her enthusiasm does not rival my nostalgia for them. The reason's simple: Sesame Street ain't what it used to be.

I miss Sesame Street's good ol' days. When Kermit the Frog would interrupt our regularly scheduled program with a breaking news story from the 3 little pigs' house. When the Count would spontaneously start counting things. When Cookie Monster ate everything in sight, not just a cookie imprinted with the letter of the day. When letters and numbers of the day turned up every couple minutes, and I felt a glimmer of recognition. Big Bird was less patronizing and more stupid. Snuffleupagus was invisible. Oscar the Grouch was grouchier. When muppet denizens freely commingled in the street without being compartmentalized into narrow roles so obviously designed with a different specific instructional goal in mind.

I continued to enjoy and appreciate the genius of the Children's Television Workshop well after I grew out of their target audience range. Mostly I miss Monsterpiece Theater, hosted by Alistair Cookie. I have a particular fondness for Grover's rendition of Upstairs, Downstairs.

When I was little, I watched Sesame Street every day. My mom would sit me in a playpen in front of the TV while she did housework. My dad came home for lunch and we watched the Flintstones together. I remember watching snatches of Polka-Dot Door, Romper Room, Electric Company (which holds great nostalgia for many and is being released on DVD), with less regularity and less enthusiasm, but they too filled my world.

Afternoons, my mom and I went next door. I watched my mother watch General Hospital and The Young and the Restless with our neighbour while I enjoyed milk and cookies. Somehow I amused myself with a quiet stuffed toy, or with trying to reach the pedals on the exercise bike in the neighbour's TV room. Sometimes I just watched with them.

That is to say, I watched easily 2 hours of television a day. And I turned out OK.

Nobody really knows the long-term effects of TV on kids. I'm not convinced it matters.


GaelicGrl said...

Grover was my favourite, too.

I believe the same thing about television. I'm not sure there's much to worry about.

I see how D. interacts with it, especially Play With Me Sesame on Treehouse, and she seems to be learning and exercising. She watches everyday and it hasn't hindered her ability to play independently and imaginatively or to play without television.

patricia said...

Ahh yes, I remember Sesame Street, too, before it became so sterile and PC. My fave was the funk and hip Roosevelt Franklin.

And I remember The Electric Company, too! That's where Morgan Freeman great acting career began.

I know I watched a lot of TV as a kid, but (and I know this sounds so predictable) TV was BETTER back then, and I also read a hell of a lot, and amused myself with my own games and creative pursuits. I think I turned out ok....

rachel said...

Ah, Isabella, today is your lucky day! Head on over here:

but only if you have a fast connection and a lot of free time. They have Sesame Street clips you haven't seen in 25 years.

Raehan said...

I miss Kermit's news flash, too, and Guy Smiley. Do you remember him?

I was limited on my television. We got to watch six hours a week. Not sure that it made a difference. I think anything in moderation is fine. You have to mix it up a little.

We had those finger puppets. Thanks for reminding me.

Suzanne said...

I hope it doesn't matter. TV is getting me through the winter...

Thanks, Rachel, for the link! I can't wait to try it out.

martha said...

I loved Animal, but was that only the muppet show? I can't remember. Some of those little shorts they used to show on Sesame Street, and especially the music in them, are permanently etched in my brain.

I'm also bothered by all the thinly veiled "lessons" that show up in children's TV-- the one that drives me the most nuts is DragonTales, and unfortunately my daughter loves it. And more treacly crap you will never see. Plus some of the voices could cut glass. Ick.

Isabella said...

Thanks, Rachel.

MJ said...

One of my earliest memories is watching Phil Brent's helicopter go down in Vietnam in the early, early days of All My Children, while my mother did her ironing. I don't remember ever watching any actual children's programming.

I have to admit that I find the Teletubbies incredibly soothing. The baby also goes into some sort of Teletubby-induced trance whenever they're on. We always keep an episode on ReplayTV just in case we need it.

Anonymous said...

Have you read MArie Winn's The Plug-In Drug? She makes a case for television being an addiction just like any other drug.
Point being this: every hour spent watching television is an hour lost for doing something else. It can be a real time zapper.