The Plug-In Drug by
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Most of my friends tell me they’ve been TV bingeing for years,  and now during lockdown it’s certainly the activity of choice.  So if that’s your guilty pleasure,  binge away.

But I’ve never been much of a TV watcher,  and I couldn’t agree more with Marie Winn when in the 1970s she wrote about the problems inherent in watching  too much TV in her book The Plug-In- Drug.  She was concerned about TV’s effect on children,  especially the violence in those early kids’ cartoons and in all the shoot-em-ups.

I’m sure with the growing awareness of those concerns and the advent of the Childrens Television Workshop,  and wonderful shows like Sesame Street,  The Electric Company and Mr Rogers,  her fears were somewhat assuaged.   But her point was that for both children and adults,  watching so much of the fare on TV is a passive,  sometimes even numbing experience.

On the other hand reading good,  well-written books is not a passive activity but an active one.   Reading makes us think and emote –  biography can inspire,  non-fiction can teach,   and good fiction can help us understand the human condition,  and,  to quote the wonderful novelist Anne Tyler,  reading allows us to “live in different places and in different times.”

Of course over the years I’ve watched my share of TV,  and in fact recently binged on the reruns of Downton Abby and My Brilliant Friend.   But – believe it or not – we don’t even have Netflix .

Yet don’t assume my husband is a TV snob like me,  on the contrary he’s a TV addict.   First of all he’s a news junkie,  but that’s excusable and lately I’m glued to MSNBC myself as they preach to the choir.   But he also watches sports a helluva lot.   And he loves to watch old movies on Turner Classics,  and he’ll watch whatever’s on the History Channel and every single animal or nature show he can find.

Of course that’s all good stuff,  but at times when there just isn’t anything good on he’ll keep switching channels until he finds the least objectionable program.   That’s known in our house as the LOP,  as in,  “I see you’re watching the LOP,   I thought you were fairly intelligent,  how can you watch that crap?”

But so much for my TV rant,   he just told me it’s time for Jeopardy and I really hate to miss that show!

Dana Susan Lehtman

Profile photo of Dana Susan Lehrman Dana Susan Lehrman
This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!

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Tags: Television


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    I saw an article somewhere recently that screen time for kids (given all the Zoom classes) wasn’t as bad as originally thought, given that education was going on through the screens, so that’s something.

    Like you, I don’t watch nearly as much TV as my husband, who also likes to watch classic movies (we do a fair amount of that together, in fact we watched an old Joan Crawford movie from 1950 the other night). And your image of Alex Trebek tugged at my heart. I used to watch Jeopardy only when I was home alone, but I finally convinced Dan to watch it along with me and we set it up to record, so now don’t miss it and shout out the answers.. I even watched the old show with Art Fleming when Dan and I purchased our first black and white TV for my dorm room at Brandeis. I’d be blow drying my long hair before class when the show was on (it was a morning game show), but I’d miss “final jeopardy”, as I’d have to leave for my class. So I was gripped with grief when Alex passed away a few weeks ago, after a heroic battle with pancreatic cancer.

    Due to eye problems, I don’t read much beyond the papers these days and we don’t watch any cable news, just the 6:30pm network news. I know, we are fossils. But I can understand why you prefer to read rather than watch TV. I’m sure it is more relaxing and better for the soul.

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    Dana, I wish I could concentrate enough to read all of the wonderful books on my list. I’m afraid the longer this goes on, the less I can focus for very long.

  3. I think balance is the key, Dee. There’s just so much really good stuff on TV (although I do have my fair share of guilty pleasures), but there’s also a stack of books on my nightstand. I sometimes binge read, sometimes read three at a time. As “they” say (sigh), it’s all good.

  4. Marian says:

    I can relate, Dana, as my buddy Dick watches every possible sports event, plus CNN. But, with my HGTV, I can’t be “holier than thou.” I do watch a lot of PBS science and nature shows, which I can mentally justify. I have been reading and agree with your take that it helps the imagination.

  5. Suzy says:

    I do a lot of reading too, as I am in two book clubs that have continued meeting on Zoom since the pandemic started. The tricky part was when the libraries were closed, although at least the ebooks were still available. However, I do enjoy watching a good movie or TV show too. I agree with Barb that balance is the key.

  6. John Shutkin says:

    Great post, Dana, and I love the LOP concept. That said, given my retirement this year as well as, you know, COVID, I find I have got the time for both streaming and reading. Just different times.

    And I certainly don’t judge about TV watching time. Particularly in light of all the crap I watched on TV as a kid. In fact, I have just been reminded of it because my daughters gave me a great jigsaw puzzle for Christmas which is a collage of a lot of the TV shows from when we Boomers were kids. And the title of the puzzle? Wait for it…..


  7. I really enjoyed the LOP concept and also appreciated that you were willing to roll perilously close to the sensitive topic of spouses advising each other on whether they are spending their time wisely! In regard to some of the other comments, I love audio-books and also I spend more time with audio podcasts than on TV shows. I guess I just prefer to relate to the world through my ears?

  8. BTW just to buttress the ideas in the book you mentioned, this one plowed much of the same ground and it influence me when it came out: AMUSING OURSELVES TO DEATH by Neil Postman (1985).

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