Number One is writing a paper for her AP English Language and Composition class using the book Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter by Steven Johnson. It can be boiled down into “TV doesn’t rot your brain,” though it’s more complex than that. She has to find points she agrees with and use her own examples, and points she disagrees with. So she’s been discussing this a lot with us over the last few weeks.
I have to admit, I’ve never been a member of the “TV rots your brain” camp. Number One tells me I used to say that to them, but I don’t think so. I DID limit how much they watched because of the sedentary issues, and because I wanted them to pursue a variety of activities for maximum stimulation. But I’ve always found value in TV, so it’s nice that my kid’s term paper is validating that perspective.
First, there’s nothing wrong with entertainment. It lifts our moods, helps us manage stress, and gives us all commonalities with which to connect with one another. Second, if you’re someone who will actually veg in front of the TV—as in, total disengagement, completely shutdown—you’d be vegging whether there was a TV there or not. You’d just drool at the wall instead.
But a lot of TV makes you think, too. When I started watching TV again after many years of spending all my evening time writing, I chose shows like John Doe, LOST, and Alias. Those are still the kinds of shows I like best. Fringe changes things up every season. Revenge has cleverness and you never know what’s going to happen next. Remember Prison Break? Sure, it had extreme hotness in Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell (who was also the protagonist on John Doe), but the pieces that Michael put together on his journey to save his brother were fascinating.
The latest addition to my list is Touch. Did anyone see the preview they did a couple of weeks ago? We just watched it Sunday night, and I’m totally hooked. A show has to have great characters to really suck me in, but add them to a twisty plot with connections that lead you to an amazing, unexpected finale, and you’ve got a fan for as long as your show is on the air.
Touch has Keifer Sutherland as the desperate father of an 11-year-old boy who has never spoken. The boy has a numbers obsession, which is common among autistic kids, but he doesn’t fit the diagnosis. There’s a tragic backstory and a well-meaning but patronizing social worker (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, from Undercovers) threatening to take Jake away from his father. In this preview episode, there’s never-ending tension as we’re introduced to people across the world whose connections are so tenuous, but that come together in a way that almost made me cry.
The core plot focuses on a specific date and time, and Jake trying to convey something he knows is going to happen. There’s some “woo-woo” philosophy brought in to kind of explain it, but to me, the why isn’t really necessary. Only the results are. I’m being cagy because I don’t want to spoil it (go watch the episode on Fox!), but Touch combined the best of both worlds in presenting a mind-twisty plot that gives us complete answers by the end of the hour.
How many of you enjoy TV shows that make you think? I’m not talking about just crime dramas where you try to figure out whodunit, but more complex stories that give you clues to follow down the path of the show’s reality. What shows are your favorites? Did you see Touch? If so, what did you think?