T.V. Will Rot Your Brain
Oh, maybe ONCE Upon a Time that was true. And what with all the “Real Housewives…” crap that airs (and let’s face it, a lot of other reality TV that I DO watch, but won’t admit to…) it might STILL rot your brain. But, it can also be a place where you can absorb all manner of useful information without even knowing it. I don’t know about y’all, but I am lazy as HELL. I get tagged for being a nerd, and I am for sure a card-carrying member of the nerd nation, but I came by a lot of it in a second-hand, passive and lazy fashion.
When I was in eighth grade, We read Romeo and Juliet. It was our first Shakespeare, so our teacher (Hi, Mrs. W!) started us off with little background on Elizabethan England and the patronage system that made such a marvelous thing as Willie Shakes possible. I was thirteen, and one way of coping I had developed for the raging hormones of puberty was spending a LOT of time in the Romance section of Walden Books. So, I was intrigued and perked right up when my teacher mentioned some ‘characters’ in a bodice-ripper I had just read, called (I think) Tame the Wild Wind, including QEI (that’s Queen Elizabeth the First to y’all) herself that had actually figured quite prominently in the real Elizabethan England. I felt like I was bluffing at a poker table or getting away with something when Mrs. W asked the class about the Tudors. I raised a tentative hand and offered some information that I had read in that book. Encouraged by the teacher’s nods, I realized that the information I had, though tangential to the plot of the romance story of a Lady In Waiting and a Lord Admiral whose passionate love for one another was to be tested by time, politics and circumstances, was actually ACCURATE. It was like discovering a gold star in a Cracker Jack box! I could use this…
If books allowed me to glean that kind of information, then TV was an unparalleled treasure trove. I was aware that my penchant for the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genre would likely throw ideas at me that were in no way founded in reality. But, the age of the internet and the consequent ability to immediately verify the veracity of anything heard or seen on TV had a twofold effect: people tried to verify what they saw and the golden age of Technical Consultants began. None of us think that what we see on TV is 100% real. Even though when I was considering a career in medicine my sister constantly asserted, “If Michael Mancini can do it, you can.” My repeated mantra of, “He is FICTIONAL!” and the intervening twenty years has had no effect on my sister at all. Stiil, TV has become in some ways very accurate.
I realized this last week whilst at trivia at the Mellow Mushroom. The round was about sports, and anyone who knows me knows that this is the opposite of my strong suit. I know all eleven Triple Crown winners because of a juice glass that I have that lists them. And my sister named one of our dogs Charlie, after Braves relief pitcher Charlie Leibrandt, but only because ‘Tom Glavine’ was a stupid name for a dog. I also babysat golf’s future superstar Russell Henley once, when his regular babysitter was unavailable. That, pretty much, is the extent of my sports-related knowledge. But, in this sports trivia round, the question was, “Which Major League Baseball team called Jacobs Field home?” The sports ringer on our team, Adam, was at a loss. It seemed we would have to make a random guess or leave that spot blank. But then, out of the cobwebs of my memory the whisper came out to me, “…cheering on the Tribe at the Jake…”
I put my head down and scrunched my eyes together, trying to get more from that memory. What TV show was it? Who said it? What… Where had I heard that? It finally came to me and I told the team scribe, “Hey, the answer is the Cleveland Indians.” My teammates exhibited appropriate amounts of shock and I basked in the small victory. I didn’t tell them that when I closed my eyes I saw a scene from Season One of the sitcom 30 Rock featuring Tina Fey and Jason Sudekis where they are happily romanticizing their future in scenic … Cleveland. I didn’t admit it, but that’s how I knew. Score one for TV!
There have been other incidents as well. My sister was once fighting with a friend. He didn’t believe that she knew who we fought in WWII. I got dragged into it when my sister asked, “Do I know who we fought in WWII?”
I knew what she was going for. I said, “Yeah, you know. The Nazis.”
“Yeah, see?” she turned to her friend. She turned back to me, “Will you tell him how I know?”
The answer was easy, “Indiana Jones. Duh!”
“See?” she said again to her doubting companion. It was just that easy. It may not make the United States Department of Education shine with pride. But the Academies of Motion Pictures and Television Arts and Sciences were probably tickled pink!
So, don’t feel bad the next time you devote an entire afternoon to some sort of marathon session with your Tivo. You never know what else you’re picking up along with your dose of entertainment!