Television gets a bad rap these days, and in many respects it should. We are bombarded with not-so-realistic reality shows and there seems to be a dearth of people with admirable character on prime time.
Television is also coaxing our country, and our children in particular, into a sedentary lifestyle, which we can all agree is not beneficial to our collective health… but there is a nurturing component to watching the boob tube. I know, you think I’m crazy, but let me explain.
When I was a young girl, I would cozy up with my mom and dad on Saturday night to watch 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show.' I loved how it brought my family together. My dad would always insist that it wasn’t funny and my mom and I would take great delight in “busting” him when we caught him laughing. On the final episode when Mary turned off the lights in the newsroom, I remember crying, not only because I was going to miss my favorite show, but I shed tears thinking about how the wonderful ensemble cast would feel on Monday morning when there was no set to go to, and how hard those goodbyes must have been. I loved that a show could touch my heart to that extent, that those characters came so alive for me.
Nearly 20 years after the show’s demise, I found myself alone in a bone marrow transplant unit at 2am. All I could hear was the ringing of I.V.’s that needed to be attended to. I felt very alone with my fear and was praying for something, anything, to distract me.
I grabbed the clunky hospital remote and began to surf. At first, all I found were infomercials, hospital channels, and old westerns and then I found them… Mary, Lou, Ted, Murray and the rest of the gang. I laughed and cried at the same time in relief. With one click of the antiquated remote, all my fear and isolation went out the window and I felt comforted as I watched several episodes back to back.
Lest you think this is an isolated incident, I experienced it again last winter while hospitalized for pneumonia. Not nearly as serious, frightening, or isolating, but who really wants to be alone in the hospital? Not me!
Once again I found myself at 2am, feeling a bit lonely and too exhausted to read. I grabbed the remote and with great effort, tried to push in the worn out arrow keys to scroll through the channels, searching desperately for familiar faces. Alas, I found TNT with one of its famous Law & Order Marathons. Such sweet relief, I blew Detectives Lenny Briscoe and Ed Green a kiss for keeping me company in the wee hours. I snuggled into my hospital covers and watched them until dawn.
Here is the healing and nurturing side of television, a side that meant a lot to me as a patient and a person. Sometimes you just need the sound of a familiar voice to melt your fears.
Should we set limits and use discretion with our children as to the content and amount of television they are watching? Absolutely! Is there some really brain-numbing programing these days? An emphatic, yes! But let us not forget the comforting and gracious side of television and its occasional ability to comfort those with strife.