While we do limit TV time, it is watched. Think of me what you will. I grew up on it, and feel as adjusted as my peers who were denied it. My two are past the little kid shows with their mind numbing sing alongs and are now into the “tween/teen” shows heavily rotated on Disney and Nickelodeon. At 10 and 12, Sons1 and 2 have hit the demographic for this huge wave of kids programming out there filled with creative, ingenious, and at times flat out sneaky and obnoxious kids. Primetime TV is overrun with idiotic reality shows. Truly crackling, scripted dialogue appears the domain of 13 year olds now. There must be over a hundred shows. Employment in the youth acting marketing has got to be like 99%.
Mine are big fans of shows like Suite Life, iCarly, I’m in the Band, etc. It’s fairly easy for me to monitor the programs since our laundry room is on the same level as the rec room. (I’ve been told by the 10 yr old they are now too old to have a “play room.”). As if unceasing laundry weren’t penance enough for my desire to parent, I get to do it listening to Alex cast spells on Wizards of Waverly Place, Zach demean his twin Cody on Suite Life, and Carly and her buds create their web show. Um… kids of TV land… where the hell are your parents?
Remember when parents seemed to have brains on TV? While it disturbed me the kids never mentioned their deceased parents, I will say Mike and Carol Brady were bastions of calm logic. Donna Reed and June Cleaver were overly ideal, but seriously Wilma Flintstone had a better grip on Pebbles than these MIA parents. Lucy Ricardo showed crazy judgment, but you got the impression Little Ricky saw her, or at least thought about her, from time to time. The shows my kids watch, though, are filled with absent-minded or totally absentee parents. I know divorce rates are high, but they have a disproportionate number of single moms who are all painted as easily bamboozled morons. By and large, parents are either never mentioned, or shown as complete buffoons. TV Producers- could you cut us a LITTLE slack?
If you’re not up on your programming for 9-14 year olds, let me help:
Zack & Cody lived the “Suite Life” with their on-site hotel manager mother. It was weird enough they never ever mentioned a dad. Then one day, the gurus at Disney TV decided they shouldn’t live in a hotel with just their mom. Right. They should live on a cruise ship WITHOUT their mom. See that right there is better TV.
“I’m in the Band” follows the travails of a 15 year old boy who convinces his single mom to take in an aging, faded trio of heavy metal musicians from the band “Iron Weasel.” I don’t know about you, but I have just a wee bit of a hard time picturing single moms I know opening their home to three washed up musicians as “role models” for their sons. Has this woman never seen VH1’s Behind the Music?
“Hannah Montana” lives with her father, and to their credit they did address more than once that her mom is deceased. The bad news is she’s supervised by her father, Billy Ray Cyrus. Moving right along…
Not to be outdone by their mouse eared colleagues, the fine folks at Nickelodeon bring you their own unchaperoned programming for pre through high school. Good luck scaring up some parents there. And they start their characters off on the solo path at a tender age. Case in point, Dora wanders off with her backpack and inane singing map. They call it “exploring” but she’s a bigger flight risk than a mob kingpin or the dementia patients with whom I volunteer. Perhaps if she stayed with adults, she wouldn’t be perpetually lost? I think los padres de Dora need one of those kid leashes. And can someone please call the cops on the sticky-fingered fox?
Fast forward to teen years, and over on “Zoey 101,” Zoey goes to the boarding school Pacific Coast Academy. In this case, they rarely encounter any adult supervision unless entering a classroom. No one seems to remind them about being respectful, calling their parents, or even that they have parents. What would Mrs. Garrett think? The remaining “Facts of Life” jokes are just too easy, as they were learned by the marginally-supervised teen star, Jamie Lynn Spears. Cancelled, the show lives on in chaperone-less reruns.
And iCarly… where to begin? If you haven’t seen the show, it’s about a teen girl who lives with her brother in a gaping loft apartment creating webisodes of her online show all afternoon. Because each teen girl should be up in her bedroom-turned-web-studio with lights, a mic, a green screen, and way too much free time. And have you noticed the bar? I know we are supposed to suspend reality, and that cartoons in our impressionable youth were violent blah blah blah. Cry me a river. Did any of you actually try to move an anvil off a cliff to squash a neighbor? I’m thinking no. I am thinking there are a lot of kids who think it’s perfectly normally to shoot TV shows from your room. And what says youth safety like web cams in a bedroom?
I’m sure to my kids, I will sound lame; so be it. I simply think there has to be some happy medium between Father Knows Best and Bill Ray Cyrus. There has to be. If not as a civilization, we’re screwed. Until such scripted examples for the kids, I guess I’ll steer them toward Wizards of Waverly Place, where the parents are only half-moronic and shown as hardworking in the restaurant they own. A mom tired from managing a family business that lets her kids out of sight maybe five minutes longer than she should, but sends thunderbolts when crossed? Yeah, there’s one who’s real to me.