Once upon a time, watching television as a family was much easier than it is today. Today, we have to screen TV shows for foul language, inappropriate subject matter, and generally poor entertainment value. Channels like Nickelodeon and Disney promote shows that portray kids in such a way that does not translate well to real life. Parents are either portrayed as total “screwballs” or are totally non-existent in the life of the kids on the show. Many of these shows attempt to teach valuable life lessons about the importance of treating others with respect or befriending a new kid at school, but the context in which these situations are acted out normally does not correlate well with what a kid experiences each day. Shows like iCarly, Hannah Montana, Shake it Up, and Jessie are prime examples of these types of shows.
You have to be careful with cartoons too. Gone are the days of Tom and Jerry and Looney Tunes. They’ve been replaced by Spongebob and many others. Even a cartoon for young children like Max and Ruby could be deemed as somewhat questionable. Has anyone ever seen an episode that shows their bunny rabbit parents? Is Ruby really old enough to be the primary caregiver for her younger brother, Max? We see their grandmother from time to time, but we never see their parents! How can a girl barely old enough to sell Bunny Scout cookies be expected to take care of her toddler age brother? Only in cartoon land – I guess. Don’t get me wrong, I love Max and Ruby. It’s hilarious. I love watching it with my youngest daughter, Clarissa. Max is always creating mischief, and Ruby is always trying to do something productive despite Max’s constant attempts to sabotage her efforts. At the end of each episode Max’s mischief always seems to have a positive impact on what Ruby is trying to accomplish even though she always tries her best not to let that happen. And as always, there is a lesson that is learned.
TV in general has become more vulgar over the years. As the rules have changed so has the subject matter. Drugs, sex, violence, and reality TV – that’s what sells today. Older shows revealed subtle hints about sexual relationships between characters. Newer shows make it the main topic in almost every episode. Even shows on ABC Family have become racier than those shown in years past. Teenage soap operas fill the primetime hours instead of the family-oriented shows of the past. And don’t get me started on commercials. How many commercials do we need to see about male enhancement and womens’ contraceptives in a day? They even show them during Harry Potter movie marathons on ABC Family. Good luck explaining that one to your 8 year old. Or is 8 the new standard age to have “the talk?”
Tonight, my wife and I found reruns of The Brady Bunch on the Hallmark Channel and watched them with our 3 girls. It was wonderful. It was the first time my kids have watched The Brady Bunch. We didn’t even know it was still on TV. The nice thing about the evening was that we didn’t have to worry about crude humor or inappropriate subject matter. It was TV innocence at its best. Tonight’s episodes showed the Brady’s (and Alice of course) as they took their family vacation to the Grand Canyon. Along the way, they experience adventures in a ghost town where a gold prospector locks them up in the old jail because he’s worried about them staking a claim to his newly found gold. He steals their car and all of their camping gear. The Brady’s eventually escape from the jail, and the man eventually returns with their car as well as a document giving them 10% of the value of his claim. Instead of calling the police or filing a lawsuit, the Brady’s forgive the man, tell them to keep his gold, and continue on with their trip.
I remember watching these episodes after school on TBS when I was growing up. I would come home from school and watch a couple of shows before starting my homework. Leave it to Beaver was one of my favorites. I remember watching Andy Griffith reruns with my Mom and Dad as well as other shows like The Munsters and The Addams Family. All of these shows not only entertained us, but they taught us a lot of life lessons. Shows like the Brady Bunch and Leave it to Beaver taught about the value of right and wrong as well as the importance of family and friendship. Characters on these older shows got in trouble for doing bad things. Andy was always trying to teach Opie to do the right thing. New shows seem to glorify the goofball or the character that causes problems – Samantha Puckett anyone (iCarly reference)? What kind of image does does that send our children?
I’m only 37, but a great deal has changed in the last 25 years or so. Racier shows used to come on after nine ‘o clock. Now they are on starting at 8. And with so many channels showing reruns of current sitcoms, the opportunity to find age appropriate programming has become that much more challenging. I’m definitely not a stick in the mud. I enjoy lots of shows on TV today, but I don’t enjoy watching them with my children. If they are in the room, I constantly find myself hitting the mute button or changing the channel so I don’t expose them to something I don’t think they’re ready to hear. For example, a show like The Big Bang Theory is truly funny, and I would love to be able to watch it with my 10 year old daughter, but the crude jokes and subject matter, at times, make that almost impossible. Reality shows are even worse. Has anyone watched Welcome to Myrtle Manor? The day of the “family sitcom” is dead. It’s been replaced with the “unfamily” sitcom, and I don’t think the “family” version will ever be back.
At the end of the last Brady Bunch episode of the evening, the Brady’s help a young Indian boy who wanted to run away from home make the decision to return to his village. Earlier in the episode, Bobby and Cindy meet the young boy while exploring the Grand Canyon. They try to follow the boy but eventually get lost. The boy helps them get back to their camp. In exchange, Cindy and Bobby agree to bring the Indian boy some food. When Bobby and Cindy sneak out to take the boy food, they are eventually caught by Peter and Greg who try to help them get back to camp before their parents find out. In the end, they all get caught, but Mr. Brady doesn’t yell or scream at them. Instead, he sees they are trying to help someone, and he takes it a step further. He shows them the importance of helping others make the right decision. He helps reunite the boy with his family. To me, this is doing the right thing, and it sends the right message to the viewer – especially younger viewers.
What do you think?