TV – Still a “Vast Wasteland?”

Newton Minow, former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, in a 1961 speech to the National Association of Broadcasters said, “When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your television set
when your station goes on the air and stay there for a day without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper…to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.”Newton Minow

I wonder what Newton Minow would think about today’s television. Scanning the program listings, much of it seems to remain a wasteland. But, as the Chairman said, “…when it’s good…nothing is better.” There are some great offerings on TV. You just have to hunt, scan, seek out the good stuff. Cable channels are winning Emmys right and left for their dramas. Live coverage of sports is the best seat in the house. News coverage is at times very good, for the most part factual, sometimes overdone. I won’t bother trying to figure out the political spins.

The Voice is the best talent show ever on television. Empire is a top-notch drama. Big Bang Theory keeps getting funnier.
Scandal is a fascinating prime time soap. Re-runs of Frazier, Seinfeld and other all-time favorites help maintain the quality level. All in all, I think today’s TV is pretty good. No, there won’t be another Johnny, but we have Jimmy. No more Murder, She Wrote…but there’s Castle. No more Lucy, but there’s Molly.

Is TV still a “vast wasteland?” Today, I’d estimate at least 33% of it is worth watching. Not counting the commercials with people dancing around mindlessly. If TV will work to improve, and gets up to 50%…then it will be “half-vast.” Sorry, I couldn’t resist working in that old joke. Chairman Minow’s words still ring true,  “When television is good…nothing is better. But when
television is bad, nothing is worse.” Ever wonder why the boat on Gilligan’s Island was named “The Minnow?”


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