You've had a long day in your cubicle, your boss won't leave you alone, the coffee maker is broken, and on the way home you notice your engine is making strange noises (a new carburetor could be costly, but you don't have the funds right now because you just had to buy a new water heater), and on and on it goes. What would be therapeutic right about now? A reality show which is basically just a miserable extension of your day, or a good entertaining diversion like "Sanford & Son"?
Sure, you could take heart in the fact that your day was bad, but not as bad as those miserable saps on the reality shows. But it's not really an escape is it? It's a chance to mock or ridicule others on the TV set, or watch the judges on "American Idol" or "Dancing with the Stars" ridicule the contestants, and perhaps that makes you feel a bit better, but it simply can't be very good for you. Which brings me to my point: television can be used for good purposes, and it can also be used for bad. To be specific, I think its use falls into three categories:
1. Personal Enrichment: Keeping abreast of current affairs (news channels), learning something useful ("This Old House", "The Joy of Painting", etc.) or intellectually stimulating ("Cosmos", "The Electric Company", PBS documentaries), or watching something of artistic and cultural merit ("A Christmas Carol", "Roots", "Anne of Green Gables", etc.).
2. Diversion Entertainment: In the same way a good Stephen King novel or magazine can take your mind off things, let you relax, take your guard down, and perhaps laugh a little, so can a good sitcom or movie. Just try to be depressed after watching a good episode of "The Bob Newhart Show" or a movie like "Meatballs". Even a good scary movie can cure the ills of a typical work week.
3. Shame Enjoyment: Taking delight in other people's failures and misery via celeb watching, reality shows or the latest talking heads crusade (i.e. O.J. Simpson, Lacy Peterson, Monica Lewinsky).
I wish I could say that I primarily utilize TV for enrichment, but alas I am generally too brain dead after a long day to participate in a whole lot of mental activity. I can say, however, that I never use the TV for number 3. I think I'm better off for it, how about you?