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Saturday, 23 February 2013

In Defence Of Television

My young cousins are banned from watching television. Well, not banned exactly, but they are not allowed to watch any TV on school nights. Apparently this doesn’t particularly bother them: most of their friends are in similar positions.

I used to watch a lot of television as a child. I remember my sister and I regularly waking up at 5:30 in the morning to watch a show called ‘Head To Head’, in which teenagers competed against each other at video games. Some of my most pleasurable conversations as an adult have essentially been exercises in nostalgia for such childhood fare. My favourite memories of school are of teachers playing us videos in science or history, so that we could not only read about such topics but see them before our eyes.

I respect the decision of my aunt and uncle to severely limit my cousins’ intake of television. Of course it would not be good for children, or anyone else, to ossify in front of the TV as purely passive recipients of ideas rather than active contributors to the world around them. It would be physically and mentally extremely unhealthy to spend all one’s free time in front of the TV, and many parents, it seems, deem it more effective simply to ban it rather than to engage in undoubtedly interminable arguments with their offspring about how many minutes or hours of TV per night is permissible.

But in moderation television can be stimulating, entertaining, educational, awe-inspiring and an extremely valuable source of ideas. The American poets Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and Charles Ghigna have written a poem which, I think, indirectly highlights the dangers of watching too much television. The poem is called ‘Unplugged’, and is dated 22/02/2013. You can read it here. I really liked the rhythm of the piece, and I thought I’d adopt a similar style in constructing a light-hearted response. Here it is:


an alien spaceship
a quick burst
of fire

a mafia mob don
is wearing
a wire

a dinosaur prowling
through lush

the first ever steam train
pulls into
the station

a gladiatorial
to the death

a tiny new polar bear
its first breath –

a lifetime of awe
in an hour
or three

is awaiting you when
you turn on
your TV. 


  1. What fun! I love this poetic dialogue and appreciate you sharing your poem with me. I agree that television can be educational with certain programs and in certain doses, but I don't think I can ever agree that "you could open a book/but it isn't/the same." Your tiny new polar bear got me, though. Now I want to write another poem. So cool. Thank you again. *Smiling.* - Amy

    1. thanks Amy, and on second thoughts I do agree with you about the book comment! My intention wasn't to pit one against the other in any case, and I've amended the poem accordingly...

  2. Hi, Josh! I loved Charles and Amy's poem, and your response is lots of fun. We let our kids watch TV in the morning and a bit in the evening, and although they love Fireman Sam and Postman Pat and Spiderman, they have a lot more fun pretending to BE those characters and either saving us from fires or capturing us in their webs. It's all about balance, as in everything. :)

  3. A mafia don in a poem (and on TV!) always cranks things up a notch. Thank you again for the dialogue. We'll have to do this again sometime... *Shaking hands from across the ocean.* - Amy

  4. I made my kids get out of bed early on a Sunday morning so we could watch The Gummy Bears together. We still sing the song and they're in their thirties, but then, we are a bit daft.. Great poem, Joshua.

  5. Fantastic poem, Joshua! Love the rhythm.