As all of you certainly know, both because you were young once and you saw how smart that genius kid in Jerry Maguire with the freakishly gigantic head was, children are incredibly perceptive. Their minds (and their dicks) are made out of the same material as Sponge Bob Square Pants. They see something cool, like riding around on a motorcycle with no helmet or unprotected sex, and they imitate it--there by becoming cool themselves. That's the circle of life. And that ladies and gentleman is how it literally works.
Now much of this cool behavior that kids pick up on and emmulate is learned through witnessing certain activities with your own two eyes; by kid's seeing baller ass role models like their drug addicted Uncle or that homeless dude who isn't afraid to start masturbating outside the Shell station in action. This method of visual learning is effective, because 1-it's clearly involves you seeing things and 2-the events are unfolding in real time, hopefully involving real people, and are happening right in front of your face. You were there when the event played out, which certainly means something. Seeing may be believing, but to physically see in the flesh is to ensure that Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon isn't some sort of government conspiracy or something.
However, while "being there" definitely can give a story some juice or create a lasting impact, it is far from the only--or even most influential--way for children to learn. In fact if you are an obese child who fears the outside world and thinks he can get AIDS by sharing a can of soda with somebody (yes, I was fearful of this at one point), it may not be a valid way for you to learn anything at all. After all, life itself may be a very valuable thing to experience, but it will never be as valuable as being AIDS free.
Which brings us to television, or TV as it is known to people who aren't old enough to have worked on the assembly line when the first Oldsmobile came off it, perhaps the most powerful teaching tool of all. TV teaches us well because, not only is it a visual source similar to "being there," but it also has the power to show us fictional worlds that we may never get to experience within the confines of our own life.
Through the power of television a straight laced Christian conservative from the burbs can get an inside look into the much more awesome world of inner-city drug dealing (The Wire) or incestual fantasy shows that may or may not be set in any sort of real timeline (Game of Thrones). Through an LCD screen in his living room some sort of straight edged loser who refuses to get hammered drunk before a 9th grade mixer can see how terrible things are when people are encouraged not to consume alcohol (Boardwalk Empire). Through a half hour of sitcom viewing we can all learn that, despite everything we've ever learned about life, reading sometimes is inexplicably more fun than whatever we are currently doing (2 Broke Girls).
Through television we can broaden our horizons and learn everything that we will ever need to know. That's the magic of the society we live in today.
That's the magic of sitting on our couches, not moving, and watching a screen as the real world passes us by.
TV Shows That Changed My Life
Now that I have made the compelling, drawn out, and not at all coherent claim that TV is the source of all knowledge, let me lend a little specivity and concrete evidence to my argument by demonstrating to you how certain television programs have changed my life, and what exactly they each have taught me in the process.
Saved by the Bell-Let's start with one of the two most influential programs of my childhood that I get to relive every afternoon as part of MTV 2's old school afternoon. So what did SBTB teach me? Well the list is long, so let's get started. 1-How to have an erection by looking at a fully clothed female (thank you Kelly Kapowski), 2-That an addiction to caffeine pills is arguably the greatest challenge ever faced by American teenagers, 3-That it is possible for robots to exist without trying to take over planet Earth and end human existence as we know it, 4-That having half a beer constitutes drunk driving and smoking one joint means that you have a drug problem...if you decide to suck at life, 5-That an entire high school student body can paint their faces red without offending Native Americans (can't find the video so...you should already know this a-holes), 6-Eating dick shaped cookies is awesome (see pic above) and 7-People named Zack rule the god damn world. Nuff said.
The Cosby Show-Sweaters. Dancing. Sweaters and Dancing. Never have kids. Amhad Rashard's wife doesn't like people with penises all that much. Hoagies. Jello pudding pop. Black people. Other stuff.
Cheers-Alcoholism is cool. Danny DeVito's wife makes me wanna vomit. All you need to know.
Seinfeld-The greatest show in the history of television has more knowledge to share than anyone could have thought when they originally gave two Jewish dudes a sitcom. Amongst it's greatest hits are 1-That trying not to masturbate is a fruitless endeavor that never works and will make your life miserable, 2-Catholics who convert to Judaism and somehow gain Polish citizenship have completely, unequivocal joke making immunity, 3-Feelings and emotions are a waste of time, 4-white people love the GAP, 5-Sometimes death is hilarious and can get you out of doing stuff that you don't want to, 6-Elaine is a whore, and being a whore is awesome, 7-Leaving on a high note is the only way to gay respect...which is why I never do it (that and the fact that I have never hit a high note...or even a medium note of any sort.), and perhaps most importantly 8-Sometimes it's OK if you don't wanna be a Cowboy. This list is only scratching the surface of the legacy of TV's greatest program...which is saying something don't ya think?
All in the Family-Archie Bunker is a man. A man who proves that it is OK for all men to talk down to their son in laws, their wife, and all the women in the world who they are not married too. If that isn't a lesson worth learning...then I don't know what is.
The OC-If you are a chick and you live in the same county as Disneyland...then you are smoking hot. And you are willing to bang every dude around...provided that they are a character in a TV show...and their parent's (adopted or real) have a lot of money.
Gossip Girl-If you are a chick and you live in the same city as Carmelo Anthony...then you are smoking hot. And you are willing to bang every dude around...provided that they are a character in a TV show...and their parent's have a lot of money.
The X-Files-David Duchovony proves to us all that aliens do exist...and that having gay feelings for another man is something that may pop up in our lives (and pants) from time to time. Not that there's anything wrong with that (another Seinfeld lesson).
King of Queens-Fat, package delivery men apparently make way more money and have way hotter lives than anyone could have possibly imagined. Shoulda grabbed that job with FedEx when I had the chance. That's a tight operation.
Spartacus-Crixus has a huge penis. So huge in fact that showing it on the Internet would cause all 6.4 of you to deface your own, disappointing genatalia and then murder yourself.
Game of Thrones-That there's no shame in banging your sister...if she looks like this.
The Office-That if you have a TV show with Steve Carrell in it, then said TV show will become a much, much larger piece of alligator feces if you continue to make it once Steve Carrell decides not to be on it anymore. Also that NBC sitcoms can be sexually arousing...if they involve attractive, middle-aged women getting fake boobies. Hey-yo!!
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air-That black people will be accepted in our society...as long as they have a lot of money and are able to show us that their parent's (and aunts and uncles) just don't understand. Yep...sounds about right.
Golden Girls-Why don't people ever fart on TV? I mean if network executives can't figure out that 4 old broads hanging out in Florida sweating their asses off and tossing a couple of choice crop dusters out of their b-holes at the nursing home is hot...then how will they ever figure anything out ever again?
Skinemax After Dark-That men and women are able to have sex without a penis or semen ever being present. I would say this is hot...if my penis and semen weren't the only two things ever present when I have "sex" myself.
The News-That Congressmen can make funnier rape jokes than Daniel Tosh. That Congressmen can be held to the same standard as Daniel Tosh. That Congressmen are way more awesome than anyone could have ever imagined. That unfortunately Congressmen are never joking. That some Congressmen speak, thus illustrating to all of us why abortion should always be legal. Too far? I feel like I may have gone too far with that one?
Boy Meets World-And back to the other most influential program of my childhood/the other book end of MTV 2's absolutely dynamite Old School Afternoon programming block. What did this show teach me? Well let me answer your question by posing an almost identical question: what didn't it teach me? That it's ok for the poor kid in a Philadelphia social group to start dating a black chick in order to bring a little diversity to a group of white friends who have known each other for the past 2 decades? That if you date a hot ace chick with a weird name in high school than you better be prepared for her to gain 4,000,000 pounds in college and never let you have sex with her on camera ever? That Mr. George Feeney is the real life version of Benjamin Button?
Yeah, it taught me all that and more. When I am asked to describe what Boy Meets World taught me, I always focus in on one perfect, crystallizing moment; one moment that reshaped my life and the one I live it; one moment that changed my perspective and the man I am today. So, without further ado, let me share it with you using the words of Plays With Squirrels (aka Eric Matthews):
"Lose one friend, lose all friends...lose yourself." That my friends, is the true meaning of knowledge.
Facts of Life-Well this is a pretty cool place for an ending, you have to admit. Now, let me channel the late, great, Chip Douglas (see youtube video below) as I share my closing thoughts with you all here.
I am the bastard son of Clarie Huxtable. I am the lost Cunningham. I learned the facts of life by watching The Facts of Life. Now I know what I have to do.
Somebody has to kill the babysitter.
(End non-sensical drivel.)