Media Literacy Online Project - Serving Educators Around The World
Media Literacy Review
Center for Advanced Technology in Education - College of Education - University of Oregon - Eugene

TV Is Fun

Bill Walsh, Contributing Writer

Looking over some of these Media Watch columns, it is apparent that we seem to have neglected to discuss one very important aspect of television. Television is fun!

Amid all the critical viewing talk and media literacy analysis and trying to get you involved in making your own media messages, that simple fact has gone un-stated for far too long. Watching TV is fun. It is, after all, why we watch -- because it is enjoyable. Pleasurable. Entertaining. Fun.

Too many academics and media scholars have forgotten or ignored this simple fact, so it deserves explanation. Certainly we watch TV for a number of reasons, but the principal one often is that it is simply an enjoyable thing to do. It comes as no surprise, of course, that Westerns and sitcoms and game shows and soaps and variety shows and even cartoons molded our early TV-watching years. We did not watch then to learn, nor to critically think about anything (except perhaps whether our hero would get the girl or how Lucy would get out of this week's dilemma). We watched because it was something to do. It was often a place where we did not have to think, where we could simply sit back and enjoy.

That sense of enjoyment lingers still. Although our choices have been expanded by dozens of new channels and literally thousands of new programs, there are still times when we watch TV for the sheer enjoyment of it. Our enjoyment takes different forms, depending upon our character, mood and tastes, but it is enjoyment still.

One friend of ours watches the news -- less to see what's going on in the world than because of some adolescent crush on Connie Chung (There's no accounting for taste!). Another person we know is an afficianado of the home shopping channels. Still another likes mysteries -- Perry Mason and Murder She Wrote. Although no one we hang out with admits to watching World Federation Wrestling or Geraldo (is that redundant?), there must be some who watch those shows, too. The Three Stooges or MTV, 60 Minutes or Roseanne, the Travel Channel or Red Sox games -- we began watching TV (and in many cases continue to watch it) simply because we liked it.

And although there is a time and a place to reflect upon why we enjoy it so much , a time to analyze and understand it, there is also a time and a place to simply sit back and enjoy. It can be a welcome opportunity NOT to think, to simply enjoy a story that's well-told, to laugh at something funny or to be thrilled by a whodunit.

Understanding the media need not interfere with our enjoyment of it. Well used, our critical viewing skills can, when appropriate, be called upon to think about what we are enjoying, why we are enjoying it, and who is giving us this enjoyment (and for what reasons). But it need not detraction from that enjoyment. In fact, it can add to it.

So this week is just a belated acknowledgment that television is fun to watch. We wouldn't watch it if it weren't (well, some of us would -- bet we've always wondered about people like that!). There's nothing wrong with enjoyment. Enjoying TV and understanding it CAN exist side by side.

Sometimes it is necessary and important to analyze what and why we watch.

Sometimes it is not.

Gotta run. My favorite show is on, and I don't want to miss it!

Bill Walsh is the A/V Media Specialist at Billerica High School, Billerica, MA.