Friday, January 6, 2012

Free for All Fridays - Is Family TV Extinct?

Many blogs run a Free for All Friday, so this feature isn't unique by any means. Even Rush Limbaugh has Open Line Fridays, where his listeners help dictate the direction of the show by sharing what is on their minds. For this blog, Free for All Friday is going to start off being about whatever is on  my mind at the time. It could have to do with family life, books, television, religion, politics (Did I just mention those two never talk about subjects?) or who knows what else. If this feature becomes popular enough, I would like to see readers directing our Friday conversations. We'll see how it goes.

Today's topic is spurred by two things:  my inability to find anything I can sit and watch with my kids on a regular basis, and an article about Collingswood, New Jersey (the home town of TV legend Michael Landon) misplacing a plaque that was dedicated in his honor.

I grew up with shows like Happy Days, Little House on the Prairie, The Brady Bunch, Diff'rent Strokes, and The Waltons. What do these shows have in common? They have strong family units with caring parents--or in the case of Diff'rent Strokes, a caring parent--who deal with the triumphs and tragedies of daily life. On a regular basis these shows provide viewers with some type of lesson. Modern-day counterparts seem more concerned with highlighting the total dysfunction of their families. Even on networks that are family oriented, some shows have self-centered parents who are so concerned with their looks or fulfilling their own dreams that their children are negatively impacted. Though the issues are resolved by the end of the show, why are parents portrayed this way?

One can't help but wonder what messages about authority figures are relayed to children when often times the children manage to outsmart the adults in their lives. There are cases where teachers are seen as argumentative kooks. Fathers are dumb as boxes of rocks--except on those few occasions where they dole out useful advice and declare their love of home and family.

Granted, our world has changed in the past thirty years, and in some ways we wouldn't want to reverse the clock. I still can't help but think, however, that highlighting dysfunction only leads to more of it, because children see this as the norm. They learn to challenge authority when their TV heroes manage it on a regular basis. A tiny part of me also believes that if quality family television from the '70's still existed, the plaque honoring Michael Landon never would have been mislaid.

What do you think? Does quality family TV still exist? Are there shows out there you feel comfortable watching as a family?

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