The Pleasures of Brain-Rotting Television

by Caitlin Servilio

When I was growing up, our TV had maybe six channels. In my formative years I watched Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. Once I grew too old for those shows, I watched next to no television for the next thirteen, fourteen years. Why so few TV viewings? Just ask my mom, and she’ll tell you...

Because TV makes you stupid!

Oh yes, it’s true. My mother was firmly convinced that watching television would rot my (and my three sisters’) brains out. We would fail in school, flunk our SATs, and eventually become burnt-out vegetables, loitering in the electronics sections of Wal-Mart so we could watch the plasma TVs play clips of blockbusters before returning home to our cardboard boxes under a highway overpass in New Jersey. This outcome ran slightly contrary to the high-achieving plans she had for us. So while every other kid got to watch Are You Afraid of the Dark and Legends of the Hidden Temple, my sisters and I had to amuse ourselves by playing outside, staging elaborate Barbie musicals, drawing crayon masterpieces, and most of all, reading. Always reading.

All this had a fairly predictable outcome. I’m sure you can guess what it is. Instead of becoming burnouts, we all became something else. Nerds.

When you read all the time, you, first of all, don’t develop too many social skills, and, second of all, you are not very clued in to the pop cultural lexicon. Therefore it’s no wonder my peers and I didn’t really relate to each other. They were watching MTV and I was wandering around with my nose in a book bouncing off doorframes and trying to do everything one-handed. I firmly blame my parents and their tyrannical TV stance for my terrible social skills and for never being able to get dates in middle school.

When I came to college, everything changed. My roommate introduced me to the pleasures of crap TV. Roomraiders, Engaged & Underage, The Real World . . . I never knew of this magical place full of attractive, vapid people that I could reach just by clicking the remote! I never imagined the joys of immersing myself in the sordid affairs of rich idiots living in Hawaii and California! I never realized how good it feels to rot your brains out!

Which brings me to where I am now: on a quest to educate myself about the wonders of TV. The weapon aiding me on my quest, much like Excalibur aided Arthur (OK, I may still be a bit of a nerd), is alluc.org, an amazing website that has every TV show I can think of and far, far, more. No longer do I have to look blank when girls talk about Grey’s Anatomy! No longer do I have to sit in silence while Lost is discussed! I can catch up on everything that I missed while I was nerdily engrossed in Sense and Sensibility or Chronicles of a Death Foretold.

And soon (very, very soon) I expect to gain some social skills.

(Photo by Clara Natoli of Rome, Italy – this blog's favorite photographer – via morgueFile.)

(Although she was denied television in her formative years, Caitlin was still an avid film-goer. For her picks for best children's films, please check here.)

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Anonymous said...

I liked this blog a lot but I would suggest that if you turned out to be a nerd, you might well have been reading the wrong books.

I can think of a few books, that had you digested them, would likely have had you in trouble with your teachers and perhaps the law, and for certain engaging in wanton and rampant fornication.

Caitlin Servilio said...

Oops, sounds like I'm missing out. Next time I'm at the library I'll take a look at those books and shortly thereafter, fornicate my little heart out.

Anonymous said...

You may want to start with Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer". You can find it in the Classics section of your public library...

Anonymous said...

Caitlin - I was your mom's best friend in high school. If you fornicate, I'm telling!!!

Debbie Zerillo

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