Friday, February 02, 2007

Adventures in Television

I grew up in a television family. We did other things too, like gardening when my Mom felt good or going shopping or just playing around, but we always loved TV. As a kid, I'd watch Sesame Street and Mr. Roger's Neighborhood on PBS in the mornings and afternoons. When I got older and was left to my own devices on hot summer days, I'd watch Mr. Ed and MASH reruns when it was too hot to move. I knew all about the cool toys from TV, what kind of clothes I should be wearing, and that I always wanted to crimp my hair but my Mom wouldn't let me bake my hair at the age of ten.

I've always admired the people I babysit for and how they've kept their kids away from the commercial aspects of the world. When the kids watch TV, they watch videos of Scooby-Doo. Personally, I hate Scooby-Doo and just admitted this to the kids this past weekend and I don't think they've quite recovered from the shock that someone they love can hate something they love so much. I think they have a video of Sesame Street songs and that's it. It's amazing to me that the kids, especially Eldest, hasn't revolted and demanded to watch something on network TV, but it hasn't happened yet.

Last night, I got home from post-work drinks with my coworkers and decided to watch My Name is Earl and The Office. Eldest stays up until 9pm, so she was jumping around on a trampoline when I flicked on the tiny set. The kids' dad seemed excited to watch some TV while their mother seemed vaguely annoyed. My Name is Earl came on, and before the first commercial break there were about three "dammits" and two "hells" and one "bitch" let loose. I blushed, and looked over at Eldest and her mother.

Eldest had buried her head in a pillow while Mother looked at the TV blankly. I always forget how swearing has become much more mainstream since I was a kid watching TV. When I'm with the kids, I keep my language to a minimum because they're not my kids and I don't want them learning how to insult each other with "stupid bitch" on my watch. If I should have kids someday, they're just going to learn swearing because I can't keep the language to myself for eighteen years. It's just not fucking possible.

We made it to the first commercial break and Eldest watched the commercials with rapt attention. She watched the Ford commercial where the car drives along a building ledge and remarked "that's not possible." Within two minutes of the show starting again, Eldest handed her mother a book and hid behind a pillow as talk of sex started.

"She's at the age where she knows it's not something she should watch, but she doesn't understand why," Mother explained.

"I can turn it off," I offered. "It's not a big deal."

"Also, I think she's a little bored. Don't worry about it."

We got through My Name is Earl and started in on The Office. Which had much discussion of strippers. Awesome. Eldest would pop in for the commercials, diving for her pillow when an ER preview came on with someone trapped inside a burning building, someone struggling for breath on a hospital gurney, and someone getting shot. I tried to explain the Jim/Pam/Karen love triangle to Mother. Then came this exchange.

"Didn't Ben Franklin have syphilis?" Pam asks the Ben Franklin actor Michael hired as a "stripper."

"What's syphilis?" Eldest asked the room. I kept my eyes glued to the TV so her parents could take that doozy.

"It's a disease," Father offered after an awkward silence.

"How do you get it? What does it do?"

Nobody fielded that one.

"I want the ads to come back on," Eldest said, rolling on the floor. "I like the toothpaste ads."

"That was a toothpaste ad," Mother said after a Rembrandt ad featuring two people making out heavily in a tight shot. After that, the commercial where the woman goes for a jog while her boyfriend follows her in a car blaring the Spice Girls came on, and I had to explain that he was doing that because the woman needed her iPod reward from the credit card company.

"Ohhhh," both Mother and Eldest said.

I am going to ruin this family.

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