Should we ban cable TV?

How many times have you flipped through the 70 or so channels which most basic subscribers receive and said, “There’s nothing on.”

Just imagine — all these choices, but nothing, absolutely nothing to watch.

When I was little, growing up in Atlanta, all we had were three network affiliates, a public broadcasting station and a couple of independent stations, including WTBS.

We always had something to watch unless the President spoke, or all three networks were covering some news they thought important. In any event, as a child you knew the evening was ruined by such things.

When you consider there are 24 hours of programming per day, with people watching TV around five hours per day, you would think that programmers would manage to put something on those 70-plus channels during prime time that people actually would want to watch.

I do not know who the decision makers are now, though I once did, but they are considered the most important people in the television industry because they can make or break careers with one decision to pick up or cancel a show.

If you have ever set with a script in hand opposite one of these people, hoping they will like your pitch and then waiting for them to call, then you will know even less than most do on how they choose what they put on screen. If we had the magic formula, we would all be TV producers.

I do not think many of them have any idea what most people want to watch. If they did, television audiences would not be declining.

Have you noticed that there is more news and reality shows on now than ever before.

I do not know about you, but for me, 30 minutes of local news and 30 minutes of national news is more than enough. Now we have several 24-hour news channels, and the networks are filling their schedules with all kinds of one-hour news shows.

They feed us train wreck after train wreck to watch as cameras follow the everyday lives of individuals who now are media celebrities. Like the old fashion soap operas that were fiction, now we invest our times and energies in the “real” lives of those they wish to put the reality crown upon.

I don’t know about you, but I would prefer the drama or comedies.

At the same time though, I need to say that I would prefer the style of dramas and comedies which were airing in decades past. Today’s shows spend more time with trying to push the boundaries of society than trying to provide us with something for which to aspire.

We wonder what is wrong with our youth — look to the ridiculous shows programmers are putting on the air to entertain them.

As far as violence on television causing problems, well, there has always been violence in entertainment. Cowboys and soldiers have always shot guns. In fact, some of the first few frames of film ever shot in history were of a cowboy’s pistol firing at a camera. When these frames ran in early film houses, people in the audience fell to the floor thinking they would be hit by the bullet.

I do not believe that violence placed in the context of good winning over evil is what has made America’s youth turn to the violent acts we’ve seen in recent years. Baby boomers and generation Xers watched gun/phaser fights and fist fights in their movies and prime time viewing.

Yet, they were not out in mass numbers committing widespread acts of violence. Perhaps it is the graphic form violence now takes that is such a negative influence.

What today’s youth face is not the fact there is violence on cable TV, but that there is no value placed on the depicted lives lost.

Can television be saved from the abyss of endless cable channels of nothing to watch?

Yes! Take away all the channels and start over. Greater care will be spent in putting together programs to be placed on two or three channels. More people will watch. Advertisers can concentrate efforts to reach a larger audience so quality productions can once again be afforded by producers.

In television, there is apathy by many who say “This is not brain surgery; it’s only television.” That was when 30 to 40 million people watched the networks each week. Now, the networks call 10 million a hit show.

But you know what, in many respects television is brain surgery. Networks and producers are shaping the face of our future with every ill-conceived show they produce. With brain surgery, you affect the future of one individual; in television, you affect the thinking of millions around the world.

We can only hope that, with more and more choices and less and less viewers, television does not sink into the Styx of humanity to try to entertain us.