Is television a boon or a scourage?

An interesting newspaper story about a modern family living fulfilling lives without a TV set in their home, and a contrasting feature about a young reporter who sacrificed a whole month of no TV for the sake of a story, is appalling in these times.

It is hard to conceive that most of the nation’s middle-agers — housewives, business and professional leaders and even the president of the United States — never knew what it was like to live in a era without television.

Those of us who lived in that void never missed it. We had books, newspapers, constructive hobbies, family activities, movies and church to influence our lives.

But we, too, have fallen into dependency on the tube. we never realize the importance it plays in our lives until we have to give it up for a spell to a repairman. In most homes there is a spare, sometimes two or three.

Except for a few situation comedies that have remained popular over the years through reruns, most of the entertainment fare is vanishing on network TV. We are forced to commiserate with films on family rifts, wife-beatings, child abuse, etc. that are far more depressing than entertaining. New shows of late, exept for a few, have limited lifetimes.

The network advertising budgets are being drained by the presence of cable TV, which has brought a variety of new channels into the homes. They were hurt further by the coming of VCRs and the availability of rental movies that can be played at home. This has becoem a big business.

And the effectiveness of television advertising is also in question. There are a few entertaining cute commercials on the air, many by beer breweries, that are a pleasure to watch. But there are many that are inane, nonsensical and border on childishness.

In a grocery store I find myself glancing around to see if anyone is watching when I am picking out a breakfast cereal, making sure I am not choosing one just for children. In selecting soft drinks I have to be sure I pick the “right one, Baby.”

And advertising has assumed a bold new approach. Until a few years ago, commercials on hygiene products, hemorroid balms, yeast infections and laxatives were only for the farmers almanacs.

Then there are the many “not-available-in-stores” gimmicks offered by mail. It is unusual that all of them cost $19.95 plus a small fortune for packaging and handling.

Most of the regional commercials on TV today are the oft-repeated automobile sales pitches. And then there are those of some in the legal profession offering services to assure proper compensation for accident victims.

Of course, election time introduces us a host of out-of-the-area candidates who we couldn’t vote for even if we were impressed by the credentials.

Wally Wachter is a retired managing editor of The Herald.

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