Turn-off turn-off week

Turn-off turn-off week
: Reason editor Nick Gillespie skewers and roasts the bozos who push TV Turn-Off Week — which is like pushing turn-off culture week; turn-off interaction week; turn-off curiosity week.

If there’s one television rerun more dispiriting than endless iterations of Scooby-Doo, The Brady Bunch, or the genre du jour of plastic surgery shows such as Extreme Makeover and The Swan, it is surely that annual ritual of self-loathing and mortification of the flesh that is TV Turnoff Week…


  • syn

    Television is causing brain damage in our children. We hook them up to the tube for six hours a day for fifteen years and then wonder why we have to hook them on prozac for the remainder of the lives.
    Watching endless hours of TV is also making us fat and lazy. Fat people should sue Hollywood for making them fat.
    That stupid box is not giving life, is it sucking life away.
    Yeah, TV is a wonderful cultural event for all to who wish to destroy their lives.
    Hook yourselves to the collective boob tube and rot away your lives.

  • Angus Jung

    Apparently, avoiding TV does not improve one’s capacity for original thought…

  • Henry

    Jeff, I read you with great interest every day and I do not own a TV.
    I reserve the right to consider myself as *cultured* or as *informed* as anyone who chooses to include TV in their lives. My interests are wide and deep including politics of all persuasions, media, art, music of all genres, modern dance, humor, medicine and health, parenting, sports and more… Not watching television works fine for me. And I am more than curious about the world.
    Please consider that it is possible to remain a fully engaged individual and citizen without owning a television. I am 51 and have lived without TV for 30 years. Even before the internet somehow I kept in touch with the culture.

  • Insufficiently Sensitive

    Watching a TV for this non-TV-owner always brings up the observation that there’s not a hell of a lot on it that one would encounter in the real world. Overdramatized, false glitz, constant image-shifting, and a top-down force-feeding of subject matter largely irrelevant to my own concerns. Which are not that far off from those of any other practical person.
    Blogs are a hell of a lot better. And you can argue right back. Getting the news from some pompous overstuffed fashion-plate biased anchor-person (who has carefully excised the parts that or contradict her biases) simply lays on the viewer the chore of going to the blogs to retrieve the omissions.
    TV(networks, PBS, BBC, Al-Jazeera, whatever) has a hell of a way to go to achieve credibility or respectability.

  • eric

    What Henry and Insuffciently Sensitive said.

  • Pete

    Television programming does suffer from quality issues but that doesn’t mean it’s totally invaluable. I would argue that over all people are much more informed after the advent of television than they were before it. That’s not a bad thing. It seems that the TV Turn-off people(and the previous commenters) would rather kill the patient than cure the disease.

  • Angelos Tzelepis

    Blanket approval/disapproval of ANYTHING is rather silly.
    Come one, there is a LOT of crap TV. Even the biggest watcher will admit that. But there is more than enough quality television, if you’re so inclined to find it.
    I have survived the last 4 or so years having watched only 5 minutes of “reality” TV to know that it wasn’t for me.
    But, there are a few well-written sitcoms out there, and a few well-written dramas, to make broadcast TV almost redeemable. Not quite, but almost. Beyond the big 4, though, there is a wealth of stuff. TLC, HIST, Discovery and DiscHD, PBS-HD, HBO.
    Yes, please, read a book or three a month. Read a newspaper. Take a walk, play a round of golf or some tennis. Listen to a CD. Get off your butt. I can’t argue with that at all. I’m right there with you.
    But when heavy rain and wind kept my girl and me inside last Sunday, we were able to watch, all in High Definition:
    -The Yankees-Sox game
    -A documentary by James Cameron about investigating the remains of the Bismark. This included incredible footage of the wreckage, emotional reunions between the surviving Germans and the Brits who sank the ship and rescued them (octagenarians all), first-person accounts of the battles, and of course (this is James Cameron, the master of big budgets) excellent computer-graphic simulations of the entire thing. More history in two hours than you’ll get in a year of high-school, nowadays.
    -Another documentary on locating the Portland, a luxury paddle-wheel steamboat that went down in 1898. Fascinating detective work, and of course great underwater footage, in HD.
    -Some great nature stuff on PBS-HD.
    All the while playing Scrabble and drinking wine.
    Anti-TV people can only knock that afternoon if they’re clouded by their own self-righteousness.
    As for stupid children and the parents who plop them in front of the TV, don’t blame the TV. Blame the parent. There’s an off button on the remote. Act like an adult, and set limits.

  • What garbled thinking is involved in shutting oneself off from a source of information and entertainment because other people allegedly expose their kids to too much of it? Truly *cultured* and *informed* adults can take advantage of everything TV has to offer without turning themselves into zombies. And, pet peeve warning, since when is “parenting” a word?

  • What drives me nuts is that this is pushed through the schools. They make TV out to be this evil THING that takes over your life. Any obsession could take over your life if YOU let it. If my kids wanted to spend hours and hours watching TV, I’d have to limit them, that’s my job as a parent. Luckily for me they’d rather spend hours and hours in front of video games. Much more healthy (that was a joke, please don’t flame me.)
    Like everything else, moderation and common sense are the solution, not blanket statements on either side.

  • Henry

    Parenting has been a word I have been aware of and used for the 12 years I have been a parent; it’s also the name of a major magazine [ parenting.com ]. A Google search for ‘parenting’ brings 9,000,000 hits.
    I responded to Jeff’s quite strong opinion that any *bozos* suggesting one turn off their TV for a week is pushing “turn-off culture week; turn-off interaction week; turn-off curiosity week.” I strongly disagree with that belief, that’s all. I agree with many of his opinions that I have read on this site and have been enriched by many of his ideas. But I guess I feel somewhat offended that by his definition I can’t be a fully formed member of this culture, that I can’t be a cultured, curious or interacting member of our society.
    For the record, I do watch TV at friends homes; my son has access to TV at his mother’s house and I have no problem with this. I don’t argue that TV is not an important part of our culture and if he was living with me full time I would have a TV in the house as I do not want him to be cut off from popular culture. I think he has had an interesting mix living in one home with and one home without TV.
    One thing that the internet and weblogs surely prove is that there are all sorts of things to be interested in. Just because we all don’t share the same interests does not mean anything other than we don’t share
    the same interests.

  • Anna


  • You guys would love Orlando. We even provide free teevee on the buses here. It’s like you never have to be away from the teevee for one minute. Thank god-of-your-choice-or-nothing-if-that’s-your-thing for Transit Tv! Without this blessed device we passengers would have nothing to do except think our own thoughts, look out the window at our community, talk with our fellow passengers, or even (shudder) read a book.

  • andy obuoforibo

    I watch a lot of TV (making up for a childhood filled with broadcasts of military marches and government propaganda). I enjoy it. Of course there is crap on TV. There are also crappy books. And music. And poetry. There’s crap in every medium. There is also substance in every medium. That’s where intelligence comes in: helping you discern.
    And, by the way, who said it’s necessarily a bad thing towatch some “intellectually unstimulating” program? Personally, I think a lot of the people who deride television are merely trying to prove theiur intelligence to the world. I am not doubting how smart they are, but I do find the whole thing silly.

  • Sortelli

    I remember reading an old US News magazine (pre-2000) talking about how Congress was going to be making all the stations switch to HDTV around 2006 which would require that everyone buys fancy new HDTVs to keep watching television.
    The next issue was swarmed with several pages worth of letters from Brave Dissenters proclaiming how they “didn’t care” about television anyway and that they wouldn’t be watching it anymore when the scary and expensive new technology rolled around. Far more “not caring” was directed at this topic than to any of the other relevant news items discussed in the magazine.
    If only people invested all that No TV energy into something remotely productive. . . if only.
    Brave Dissenter: “Harumph! Harumph I say! I invest my energy into many productive things, in fact, I am so productive that I don’t know what to do with myself! That’s WHY I have so much time to complain about the TV! Because I am a cultured and productive member of society!
    And I’m a good parent, too! Harumph!!!”

  • Hal Duston

    I have on several occasions in the last six months gone an entire week without ever turning on the television. I did not do this deliberately, or as part of any “TV Turnoff” project, but rather just got busy with other things. Eventually I realized, “Hey, I haven’t watched TV for the last seven days.” Am I less cultured? I wouldn’t consider myself so. I am sure that other have a different opinion of my culturedness though.

  • andy obuoforibo

    Nice one, sortelli!
    Heeeyyyyyy! I didn’t get a “harumph!” from that guy!

  • Laurie K.

    TV is great, when viewed in moderation. TV, in and of itself, does nothing whatsoever to kids. If you want to blame someone for making kids fat, hyperactive, and stupid, blame their negligent parents. That’s where 100% of the blame belongs.

  • skisail

    “I’m not an elitist,” Green said. “It’s just that I’d much rather sculpt or write in my journal or read Proust than sit there passively staring at some phosphorescent screen.”

  • syn

    Television ‘does nothing whatsoever to kids’?
    So if TV does nothing, why are kids sitting ‘passively staring at some phosphorescent screen’?
    Maybe because their parents were taught to sit passively staring at some phosphorescent screen too.
    Passively doing nothing whatsoever for five to six hours a day, for years and years, I say this is cause for brain damage.
    Or at least neurotic insanity.

  • Katherine

    TV, in and of itself, does nothing whatsoever to kids.
    That may not be true. A study came out in Pediatrics recently suggesting a pretty strong link between TV watching in infants and later development of attention disorders. I know a thing or two about ADHD, and I have to say I find it very plausible. We just got cable again after several months of budget-induced abstinence, and every time I turn on the TV I’m amazed at how fast everything moves. I timed it the other day while channel flipping, and on a lot of shows the scene or camera angle or whatever (I don’t know the terms of art) was changing every 1 to 1.5 seconds. Expose an infant to that, the theory goes, and the poor kid’s brain–which is still figuring out what kind of world it’s in–will wire itself for hyperactivity. Either that or some of its synapses get fried.
    Predictably, the Sesame Street types said “they didn’t differentiate between our excellent educational programming and Saturday morning cartoons!” And they didn’t. But even Sesame Street moves faster than real life. I’ll be interested in seeing the results of followup studies, but as for me and my house, we’re turning off the TV until the kids are older.

  • I tried this turn-off thing last year, soo overrated. Self-loathing no more! Bring on da reruns!

  • syn

    I am glad to read Katherine is able to see past the arguments posed by TV-trained intellects.
    Watching endless hours of television and then calling for reruns of the same endless hours of television?
    How cultural.
    Watching the same thing over and over and over and over and over again. Something to be said for having to watch reruns over and over again. I wonder why it is that people cannot get the point the first time around?
    Brain damage.

  • I always liked this story from the Onion–particularly the detail that the “area man” is from Chapel Hill….just perfect.
    Area Man Constantly Mentioning He Doesn’t Own A Television

  • Something to be said for having to watch reruns over and over again. I wonder why it is that people cannot get the point the first time around?
    Because unlike your repetitive posts, watching good TV programs again is enjoyable.

  • Sortelli

    Did you know that some people read the same books over and over and over and over and over and over again?
    Disgusting. Culturally backwards, even. I say we take all the books and these so called sydicated “classics” of “literature” and … well … we can’t unplug them. But we can burn them.
    It’s good for the children, you know. There are studies that say that kids think too much when they read too much. If people go around thinking all the time everything will be all higgildy-piggildy! And look at all of that sick satanist Harry Potter nonsense!
    Further more, we should take some time off from all these “physical” activities. Some studies have shown that things move really fast during physical activities and injuries are common. Fast moving objects such as balls and running dogs and swingsets can cause people to be easily distracted–don’t even get me started on how easy it is to become distracted when we go to the beach and there’s all these half-naked men and women prancing about like it is Spring Break. Things need to be more decent around here. And what kind of values are we teaching our children when we let them play competative games anyway?

  • syn

    I am not advocating we burn books nor ban television. One pleasure from reading books instead of watching TV is when I read a book I am not interupted every 7 minutes by 5 minutes of 30 sec flashes of advertisements.
    Fortunately, some books are so complex they deserve to be read several times over. The same cannot be said of most things shown on TV.
    As an actor in the business, however, I do have an interest in television providing good quality programming. Very few programs on television can be considered good quality and now that the producers have discovered ‘reality-based TV’ television is going to get worse before it will get better. The current reality-based tv cash flow is simply to good for producers to resist the temptation of bad television.
    Instead of watching the show, read a TV script and you might discover how truly banal is the dialogue and dull is the story.
    Watch how a TV show is shot, everything is manufactured and manipulated to conform to a specific image. Creativity and artistic freedom are not allowed on the set. The actors hired in the shows, however, try to tell us otherwise.
    Go to an audition and you will see everyone there looks exactly alike in height, weight, hair color, boob size for females, muscular size for males. The only concern the casting director has at this juncture is to choose the actor or actress who has the most ‘points’ behind them. Points are numbers used to determine audience awareness of a particuliar actor.
    The television industry is not in the business of making good quality programming, it is rather in the business of selling advertising slots to make money.
    Yet, the public considers television to be a viable cultural event worthy of praise. Who needs Shakespere, when we have Paris Hilton to entertain us.

  • Sortelli

    Blah blah quality blah culture blah Blah blah BLAH I’m better than you blah blah blah blah blah blah blah anyone who disagrees is part of the TV intelligentsia blah blah blah most things I like are better than things other people like blah blah blah blahblahblah other people are stupid blah blah sue the TV for ruining your life blah.
    Sorry! I guess my attention span is too short to listen any more closely than that!
    Hey, by the way, the Internet rots your brain and makes you fat and lazy. Log off now!