One day this week, my son burst into my bedroom without knocking, slamming the door in his wake, eyes wide with panic. “Mom! You’ve gotta call now! They’re gonna take it away!”
After breathing a sigh of relief that I was fully decent, I began to panic, too. “Take what away? Who?” I sprung from my chair and into the living room, where I assumed there must be intruders from another planet threatening to take away his sister.
“Look, Mom. Right there! You’ve gotta call!”
Scrolling across the bottom of the television screen was a vicious accusation which read something like, “Hey, kids! Direct TV is going to take away your Nickelodeon channel. Your parents can stop this if they call . . .”
“You’ve gotta call, Mom. Please call!”
Now, this came from a boy who would rather climb trees and build miniature forts out of twigs than watch television. But since he is required to stay inside during the hottest part of the day, and since he is allowed to watch television for part of that time . . . well, you get the idea.
Actually, I think his panic stemmed more from the desperate, pathetic attempt from Viacom to reach out to the elementary-school bunch to be their champions. They needed a hero, and he would be that hero.
Out of curiosity, I dialed the number on the screen. Direct TV played a lovely recorded message stating that in an effort to keep customer pricing low, they were in negotiations with Viacom.
I relayed the message to my son, assured him all was well with the universe, and told him to go play outside. I then thought very seriously about cancelling our television subscription altogether. After all, most of the channels we pay for are channels we never watch. Hundreds of them, I tell you. We had to subscribe to approximately four hundred seventy-two channels we’re not interested in just to get The Disney Channel.
Which brings me to my point. Why do we need all these television channels? When I was a kid, we had channels 2, 11 and 13, plus PBS channel 8. A little later they added local channels 26 and 39, which played mostly Bugs Bunny and I Love Lucy reruns during the day and boring stuff at night. I had no DVD player. No VCR.
When a movie came on, we all watched the same movie. It was usually something like The Wizard of Oz or A Charlie Brown Christmas. Mom would pop popcorn and spread a blanket on the floor for my brother and me to sit on while Mom and Dad sat on the couch behind us. Come to think of it, I’m not sure how much of the movie Mom and Dad actually watched . . .
Summer days were spent riding bicycles with my friends and finding just the right amount of mischief to keep us out of any real trouble. When I wanted to stay indoors, I’d read a book or talk on the telephone uninterrupted. Yes, uninterrupted, for we didn’t have call waiting then, either.
Now I know as you’re reading this, you’re thinking that I must be ancient. And though some days I feel ancient, I’m really not. I’m still young, and this strange world I describe was a reality, not very long ago.
While I do love me some HGTV, I think I could survive without it. I think my children would be better off if they had to make their own entertainment instead of relying on the click of a button. As for news, there’s always the Internet. Or better yet, they have these crinkly white pages with black ink that can be delivered to our doorsteps. They’re called newspapers.
I sometimes wonder what God must think of us all, sitting around on our comfy sofas, going zombie-eyed staring at the flickering boxes we so proudly display as the centerpiece to our living rooms, with all the creativity and intelligence He placed into us just going to waste, being sucked into oblivion as our brains turn to mush. It must look to Him like some odd, degenerative form of worship.
I’m not saying that all television viewing is wrong. If it were, I’d be as guilty as anyone. But I do think the little box that has so much power to connect people, to deliver information, and yes, to entertain has been given too much power in our lives. I’d rather pour my time and my brainpower into real, flesh-and-blood people. I’d rather fill my hours with love and encouragement and relationship building and yes, even mischief making.
I don’t know what will come of the recent television wars, but in a way, I’m glad they happened. They’ve reminded this customer that life without Nickelodeon was, in all honesty, a much more pleasant life.
“Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things,” Colossians 3:2.