Why do YOU watch Television?

I have always loved talk radio.
Not the exploitative, always-in-pursuit-of-publicity sensational stuff, but the programs that make you think, that inform you about the world and that offer a variety of viewpoints.  WPR rectangular logoWhile listening to a recent broadcast on Wisconsin Public Radio the question arose: “Why do you watch television?”

The program I was listening to wasn’t about TV.  It was an episode hosted by a woman and the content of the hourlong program was really about women’s relationships with other women — a topic of interest to be sure — but not what caught my attention.

It was said, rather matter of factly, that the guest (who happened to be a black female) had been distressed because she wanted to see/hear more pepole “like her” on the television. There clearly were a lot of people who shared her point of view, blacks, whites, all sorts of ethnicities — but still mostly women who called in.

I thought about that for a moment.

And I realized that I cant think of a single time in my entire life when I looked at TV for validation.  In fact, if I look back at my personal, lifelong viewing habits I have always watched as much about people different  from myself, in place, in character, in personality as I possibly could.

milt rosenberg

Milt Rosenberg, host of the radio talk show Extension 720, who died January 09, 2018

Public TV and Radio have always been big draws, but I can remember listening to  Milt Rosenberg on a humongous stand up three band radio in the 3rd and 4th grades and a good number of years after that.  His show was about “the art of conversation” and for a few years there as weird as it may sound for a kid my age to be listening to a bunch of old geezers talking I lived for that show every evening (long after I was supposed to be asleep). I would turn it on real low and listen as long as I could stay awake.


But back to today’s topic about watching TV for affirmation of who you are or what you are…

This idea that anyone would watch TV to find people like themselves dawned like a lightbulb.  I guess I’m not surprised, exactly;  but it’s something I never in my imagination would have considered:  looking for people like myself.  I’ve never been around people who were much like me. Oh, they might have had the same skin color, but I’ve never found many people with whom I shared much else, and certainly not what passes as humor — why people laugh at what’s found on TV nowadays completely eludes me!

I wonder how many people do that?  I can clearly see why a variety of different folks might look around the world for identity.  For all the years when to be gay was to live in the closet surely it had to have been affirming to find others like one’s self.  So, I suppose being black would be reinforced when you see other blacks on TV.  It’s just not something I’ve ever thought about:  finding one’s own identity in the media.  Maybe that’s partly because I’ve never looked at the media as anything other than entertainment.  Living in a capitalist society the media have a primary objective of making money; they no longer have any legal obligation to provide balanced and accurate news coverage, and the absence of non-news bias was never something they were asked to do.108317_watch_tv_clipart_13

It really makes me wonder about the kind of relationships people actually have?  A part of that program I listened to were complaints about the kind of unsatisfactory relationships the participants had and I wondered why keep people in your life if you can’t find something mutual upon which to base your frienship?  If you can’t find family I know enough folks who have gone out and found their own family in friends and associates with whom they did have commonality.  They didn’t choose to be isolated just because they didn’t find what they were looking for among a specific set of people — they went in pursuit of others who could satisfy the longing in their soul.

But the bigger concern I came away from that conversation with was about the content of what you see/hear on TV.  Anyone who thinks that reality TV, or sitcoms, or TV dramas portray your average American life is in for a huge disappointment.  And modeling one’s self after what you see on TV is a surefire way of sabotaging your own relationships.  Show me relationships that last 20, 40, or 60 years on TV!  Show me relationships where people maintain trust and integrity.  Or even where they try to maintain it. Popular TV porgramming is primarily about the lowest common denominator;  what will the most number of people find in common, not what can we portray that will encourage people to imitate a more successful relationship!

I’d be interested in hearing why YOU watch TV. Do you expect to find people like yourself?  Do you watch for other reasons?  And what might those reasons be?


6 thoughts on “Why do YOU watch Television?

  1. I personally watch TV to be entertained. Entertainment means different thing at different times. Sometimes I can just learn new things, see new places. Sometimes I can watch dramas enfold in fictional dramas. Reality TV is anything but real. I believe than lack of personal interaction has driven these Reality shows. People are basically voyeuristic, and these Reality shows feed on that.

    You and I grew up watching TV with everyone looking like us. Learning things became natural because we were seeing people like us everywhere. I can only imagine the frustration that African American feels when everything she sees on TV is based on something she has been shown she is not a part of..


    1. I can definitely see the idea that reality tv is driven by lack of personal interaction, but most of the folks in reality TV are youngish. And most of the Millennials and slightly older than Millennials I know are way more socially active than most of the older folks I know. I’m not sure I buy into that idea. But, as long as there’s enough of a market to sell the advertising they’ll keep doing it, so what I think doesn’t matter cuz I don’t watch reality tv.

      Agree about the inability of blacks to find much to identify with (historically) — but I still find it odd that people would watch a mass media for ways to identify. Then again I’ve always been out of sync on the subject of self-identity so I’m not surprised we differ on that one.



  2. Before I talk TV, allow a enthusiastic moment glorifying talk radio. CBC Radio is my constant companion. Non partisan, insightful, informative,unpredictable – talk radio takes our pulse. TV – why indeed. I watch history and documentary channels, MSNBC when compelled to absorb American perspective, BBC for world news without partisan jibber-jabber and a local gem, the Knowledge Network. Sigh.


      1. Two years ago CBC radio asked Canadians to submit proposals for a one hour mid afternoon spot – officially, a “summer replacement” program slated to air June-September. Long story short, I pitched Notestoponder “something to think about,talk about,learn more about”. Didn’t give it another thought until several months later when a CBC email landed with news I was among 10 short listed ideas. Wowza! You would have heard if my voice hit the airwaves.:) Didn’t care – being short listed was cool enough.


  3. I watch to be entertained and sometimes to learn. I don’t remember which channel we enjoyed but Direct took it off the free list years ago. I guess it was so popular they wanted to make money on it. Most of the shows are not worth my time – they’re too vulgar or stupid. I’ve been watching the reruns of old shows. Remember when it used to be free to watch TV? Now you still have a ton of commercials (20 minutes per 60 minute show on average). I miss the clean shows that supported love, God and family. I’d prefer they not take God’s name in vain so much. They even have Supergirl doing it. Not my kind of hero.


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