Watching television is like taking black spray paint to your third eye. – Bill Hicks

Television is chewing gum for the eyes. – Frank Lloyd Wright

All television is educational television.  The question is: what is it teaching? – Nicholas Johnson

I knew 3 siblings in high school who were not allowed to watch TV. They might have declared they used an outhouse, or a washing board to scrub their clothes because it seemed that outrageous not to have a TV in the house. But because they never had one, they didn’t know what they were missing and claimed that they were absolutely fine without it. I cannot imagine being excluded from such a huge part of American culture. I wonder how it affected their adult lives, if at all…

Like most households, we had more than one. There was the living room TV and this weird kitchen television that was also a radio and a cassette player. It was heavy, but meant to be portable. In California, I used it in my mom’s bedroom to watch the Dodgers play baseball. In Hawaii, it seemed to live on the kitchen table. Later, when we got the living room TV upgrade, we moved the old one into the enclosed lanai (or patio), so then we had three.

Rarely as a family did we all sit down and gather around the tube. If we did it was for the Miss Universe contest or the occasional football match, but normally I was reading in my room or my mom was watching her own things like Tom and Jerry cartoons or her Thai soap operas copied onto VHS tapes smuggled from the motherland.

My step-dad, brother and I were much more likely to be together: step-dad in his armchair and Larry or I on the couch with the other sitting on the carpet front and center of the TV. We bonded over American football, standup comedies, movies and shows like The Simpsons and Married with Children.

When we were on our own in front of the TV set, my step-dad dozed off after a long day of construction sometimes still in his work boots with a cigarette dangling from his fingers and a beer in his other hand.

I became obsessed with MTV.

My brother watched PBS like he was studying it, which he probably was, as he became well-versed in the habits and habitats of all creatures great and small.


Expats, I’ve noticed, really love their TV shows from their home country. Of course, right? It’s our way to stay current and be part of a culture that we don’t have to work hard to understand. It’s escapism, too.

There was a teacher I knew back in Thailand, who Netflix binged like he was an invalid. He claimed he was much more active in the US, but when he came to SE Asia, all he wanted to do was draw the curtains of his tiny studio apartment and watch movies + TV shows and read books. He looked unhealthy and had poor sleeping habits as well. I wondered why living abroad made him want to just watch TV all night and day.

To be fair, we all go through phases and perhaps this was just a phase. I don’t know. It’s funny though, whenever I pass the apartment next door I can hear their English entertainment being played. I suppose this is also an example of how, we are who we are, and despite being in a different country, we are going to most likely bring our habits along.

Since I was never a big TV watcher, I don’t watch a lot of TV. Sure, I’ve gone on my BBC romance marathons and I love Game of Thrones. But generally though, I can’t watch TV all day. I don’t have it in me. I also feel like it’s a waste of time. But if I’m too knackered from work, don’t feel well or hell, just want to goof off, I’ll watch a little YouTube or catch up on a series.

So, I view TV and movies as a treat, not something to indulge in because I don’t have something else I’d rather be doing. Maybe if I was still living in the US, I’d watch more.  After all, talking about TV shows is one of our big ways of socializing.

But I don’t see reading as a waste of time and I’m not entirely sure if that’s fair. I can spend plenty of time reading online, good stuff, too, like your blog, poetry or thoughtful articles. I can devour a book and read all day. I know reading helps me be a better writer, but c’mon, I’m escaping, I’m consuming, I’m retreating into my own world.

What’s your relationship with TV?

44 replies on “What’s your relationship with television?

  1. I love that you make me think! I don’t have memories of sitting in front of the TV when I was a child. For your readers…..I am 61 years old. I must have watched because I remember cartoons. I knew early on that I disliked Popeye because it was so violent toward Olive Oil. I adored Bugs Bunny because he was so mouthy and kept it real.

    I married at 19 years old and just celebrated our 42nd anniversary. We had televisions and watched mostly comedy. The Carol Burnett Show, Laugh-In and I Love Lucy. As time went on we have chosen cutting edge shows which were beyond what main stream America wanted and were sadly cancelled. Max Headroom, Dead Like Me, Firefly, Eureka, and Warehouse 13.

    Since moving out of the country nearly 2 years ago we have used our computers to watch programs like The Big Bang Theory. I also like Game of Thrones and have started watching Outlander.

    I don’t read, write or speak Thai and sometimes I just need to feel not to isolated. But when we are around loud American tourists I want to tell them to STFU! I am still learning about myself and realizing it is alright to do what makes me happy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. Thinking’s good, right? 😛

      You actually reminded me of all the old TV shows that I watched as well. Just because I was born in the 70s and having access to black and white classics like The Twilight Zone, Leave it to Beaver and The LIttle Rascals. We simply did not have the amt of TV shows that we have now, so we watched older stuff, too – we watched what was on.

      And. Since I grew up in Hawaii, there was quite a bit of Japanese influence on TV. Lots of shows from there, dubbed in English.

      Firefly forever!!!


  2. All my life I remember one big TV in every house I lived in. As a kid growing up in Australia, each day after pre-school I’d come home and watch kid shows like Play School and Sesame Street. It was usually with my brother. We ate fish and chips in front of the TV watching these shows on Friday nights. On the weekends, we’d watch this game show called Gladiators with dad.

    When I moved to Malaysia and Singapore, my parents loved watching TVB and Cantonese dramas and I was stuck with watching that. At one point we did get a second TV, thankfully. Loved watching shows like Survivor, Buffy, Charmed, The Amazing Race, How I Met Your Mother, Prison Break…

    These days I do not watch TV anymore. Not a single TV show and it’s because…I’m simply not interested in local Australian TV programming and shows produced in the States and so on. The only thing I might watch is the news when my parents decide to have it on as we eat dinner. Not a movie watcher either.

    It sounds like a bit of a lonely life that teacher you knew lived. He could probably be an introvert, but on the other hand perhaps he really missed American culture and wanted to connect with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d love to rewrite my post just based on you and Lin’s comments so far! It’s fun to read what folks remember and how that makes you think about what you forgot!

      I’m reminded how much American TV got around. I was surprised when my friend from South Africa told me she was raised on American TV shows. Apparently this was what was piped in – so strange!

      I enjoyed some of the same shows you did. And I was subjecated to Thai TV and movies – just because it was what my mom was watching. Dang it. I definitely should have thrown that in. Maybe later..Thai TV could be its own post!

      Yes, I think my friend was in a bit of denial. He needed to go back, but I think he wanted to try Thailand + teaching a bit longer. Eventually, he went to Japan (his original plan), but I don’t think he was there for very long.


      1. I think a lot of kids in Asia – at least from my generation – were raised on a diet of American TV. At one point, everyone there was obsessed over American Idol and then their countries followed with localised versions.

        A post on Thai TV? I look forward to that. I’m sure there are a lot of dramas (like Cantonese TV) but also quite a few homegrown reality shows.


  3. I was obsessed with MTV as well. And I have to admit that there was a time when I was literaly running home after school to watch my favourite TV show. But of course priority changed now and I no longer have time to watch that much TV. To be honest, now I am watching all movies and TV shows online. It seems to me as time has changed so much. I miss those MTV times though 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean. Good point. I think a lot of us watch our favorites on our computers these days. I certainly do. Except when my b/f and I want to watch something together, we stick a USB drive into the TV…but I can’t say that I miss all the TV commericals. I don’t know how anybody can stand them. I used to mute them.

      I’d say my only throwback habit from watching MTV is that I still like to ocassionally catch up on current music videos on YouTube. I like to see what’s popular 😉


  4. So for several years I lived without a TV. And I swear, when I went over to a friend’s house and watched cartoons or syndicated sitcoms, I could feel myself getting stupid. 4th grade, and even I realized I was losing brain cells.

    Now, we have loads of options and we aren’t stuck with network programming. There are some programs that make you think, or make you laugh, or have moral dilemmas, or toss in some history — I like all of those. And yes, FIREFLY FOREVER! Also, DOWNTON ABBEY, because you have to stay on your toes to catch the nuances and subtext, just like BBC’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

    But the majority of sitcoms, drama, and kid’s programming is mind-numbing. Andy doesn’t care, he enjoys things that explode and car chases. Or so he says. But when I was binge watching DOWNTON ABBEY last night with my stupid cold, he got sucked in. (And was rewarded by uncharacteristic blood-spewing in the dining room.) Maybe there’s hope. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. During my Waldorf years, I was without social media. So I feel like I was absent during those years. I remember when a friend mentioned Eminem and I was like, “What? Who?” and he asked me if I had been living under a rock. Why, yes, yes I had.

      But I understand the “stupid factor” when I went back to Hawaii last April, I was stupified by the amount of pharm/drug commericals on TV. As in, “this is still a thing???”

      Hope you get better soon. Being sick sucks! I’m so behind on Downton…xxoo

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your Waldorf years – did you go to a Steiner school?!

        I went to a Steiner school from age 4 to 14 and watched hardly any TV during my childhood and early adolescence.

        While I definitely miss some pop culture references of my generation I don’t feel like I missed out. I read a lot of books, I played outside.

        I share your sentiment about reading – somehow I don’t feel like reading books (or online content) is a waste of time but I’m not quite sure why this is.

        I use the internet to watch what I want (as Autumn said, shows that make you think or have interesting moral dilemmas etc) however I must confess that as I type this from Taiwan there is a TV blaring in the background (in Chinese, for language learning purposes of course!)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No, I didn’t attend Waldorf school. I taught at one. So during my training and teaching I didn’t watch TV.

        Even though I watched TV as a child, I still spent a great deal of time out doors and reading, too. I think TV takes over some childhoods, maybe more these days, but back when I was growing up, we were encouraged to play outside 😛

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I loved watching TV when I was younger, I just couldnt get enough. This changed later when I my focus was only on sports and school. Only during the past few years I started watching TV shows again and in the beginning I had tons of stuff to catch up with. These days I try to watch one episode each evening before reading and then going to bed 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How very disciplined of you! Yes, I think when I was back in the US I allowed my self the same amount of TV watching. But I certainly went over from time to time.


  6. When I was a kid I liked watching cartoons on the weekends, but later I never was a big fan of tv. Now I only watch some series at night, and not every day. I could totally live without a tv and only watch things sometimes on the computer 😛

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I went nearly 6 years without even turning on a TV when I live in Taipei. I worked a lot and I explored a lot as well. I really didn’t have a lot of time to sit down in front of the TV. Nowadays, I have a few shows that I love to watch – nothing too intense though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You bring up a good point. When we expat we normally are so busy getting accustomed to our new world that we don’t have time for TV shows back home. I hadn’t thought about that. So I have missed periods of Am culture being abroad. Of course, the Internet helps us to catch up rather quickly.


  8. I’ve lived for a total of 30 years out of 57 years without tv in home. Currently where I live I don’t have a tv. Nor am I particularily motivated. Sure, I watch about 2 hrs. of tv or less when I’m in Vancouver. I have a friend who’s slightly addicted to Netflix..on her iPhone. I don’t get that tiny screen enjoyment…?


    1. Hahaha. Oh my god. I totally forgot about all those folks who watch TV on their mobile devices. What a world we live in, eh?


  9. That whole paragraph about only gathering together to watch Miss Universe or football games on tv… and about your mother watching Thai soap operas on VHS… omg, that was EXACTLY my childhood. Brought back memories. 🙂

    I watch a lot of Netflix, so I never really watch “live” TV and often find shows wayyyy after they were aired/popular. But oftentimes, I just use it as background noise while I read or fold laundry or whatever. I could live without tv. 🙂


    1. Me, too. That’s soooo funny. Must be on the genes. ☺ We also had to watch Thai movies, as we were dragged along for those. They played them occassionally near the uni on Hawaii. Love it!!! HAHAHHA. Childhoods unite!


  10. TV can be such a time sucker! In my retirement I have limited my TV watching for fear of becoming a couch potato. That came to a crashing halt when late last year we were offered such a great deal on a cable network. We decided to take advantage of it and our lives changed dramatically. Sad to say not for the good. All of a sudden we were watching way too much TV. We’ve since decided we need to cancel this and/or reduce our available channels because too much times getting wasted and life is passing by. I never wanted to be that person that was addicted to television!! Definitely not how I planned on spending my retirement.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. At least you recognized that you were doing this! How many don’t think they are addicted to TV, right? I’m sure you will come up with a good plan to wean yourself off of it. There is great TV out there and if you enjoy it, why not indulge just a bit? 😉


  11. I love this blog post! It’s such a conversation starter.

    When I was younger I have fond memories of coming home after school and watching Xena and Hercules, haha. I also got up really, really early in the morning to watch Sailor Moon. I used to watch MTV when they actually played music videos, but when they stopped doing that I gave up on them forever.

    I notice that I watch *much* more TV living in the United States than when I lived in China. I think I’m so stressed out with work and commute that, when I get home, I don’t want to do *anything* but sit and decompress (aka, watch TV), and I notice a lot of my fellow American friends do the same. This is bad, and I’m trying to replace TV with books. Already gone through two books since the switch!

    Anyway, I’m much more selective with my TV now. If the show sucks for 2-3 episodes then I just give up on it (or if it gets really old–I’m looking at you, Walking Dead). My favorite TV show ever is probably Sherlock, followed by Game of Thrones (book is better, though), Firefly (YEAAA!), and How I Met Your Mother. There’s other good runner ups too, like the first two seasons of Battlestar Galactica and Arrested Development (classic).

    Most of my TV now is actually Japanese dramas and anime… trying to language practice, plus it’s entertaining! The Korean dramas are a bit too melodramatic and trashy for me. When I watch those I actually feel myself getting dumber (although there are a few good ones!)

    Great post Lani!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I think everyone gave up on MTV when they stopped playing music. What a bunch of morons! It’s music television, yo!

      It’s very true. Americans are overworked and then they all just want to sit in front of the tube and relax. It’s the American way. We probably consume more TV than anyone else…although, I wonder if any Asian countries have taken our #1 spot over?

      Yeah, I guess I’m lucky. I just can’t binge watch. My brain and eyeballs can’t handle it. Hahhahaa. But all this talk about TV wants me to do a day of binge watching 😛

      The prob is there is some great TV out there! And they’ve made it very easy to watch what you want when you want it.

      All Asian soaps are melodramatic. I don’t mind though. I get sucked in – hahahhahaa.


  12. A topic i can get stuck into! Oh man, TV and me have a huge relationship – that sounds terrible. But its true. Some of my fondest and earliest memories are me, with the family, sitting down on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon with tea, biscuits and TV. My dad was self employed, so he worked all hours and days. But the few moments we had as a family we’d make the most of them. Watched all the classics – Man from UNCLE, MacGuyver, Airwolf, The A-Team, 80s TV heaven!

    Now, I can marathon TV like … erm, a marathon runner? There’s something about TV that makes it slightly more enjoyable than film, for me. Something about getting to know some interesting characters, learning and getting engrossed in their stories. TV let’s you sit with them for longer. It’s my way of, I guess, losing myself. Love finding new TV shows to get stuck into. There’s so many!

    Though for me, it’s not British TV shows. A couple maybe, but I will watch any TV show that’s solid. It’s a bit tricky being in Bahrain, but we find a way. Though compared to how much TV I used to watch back in England, it is a lot less. Just because download limit is capped and the bandwidth is terrible! So now it’s about quality rather than quantity. Which is totally alright by me 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 80s heaven indeed! Nothing wrong with that! 😉

      TV does have that appeal – long running shows, character development + plots. Greater reward of gathering a loyal fan base and greater risk of losing them.

      Interesting. I would have thought Bahrain would have excellent Internet. And you don’t like British TV shows as much as ??? American? Don’t say Australian, please.


      1. Haha, yeah, it’s pretty much all American for me. And some Scandinavian – things like The Bridge.

        Bahrain’s Internet is terrible, as all the cabling is owned by one massive corporation, and they lease it out to other companies. There’s a lot of throttling that goes on, so streaming isn’t a great idea. Even though Netflix just officially launched in Bahrain, a lot of the stuff is censored for the Middle East. 😦


  13. I have no such relationship. =) I quit watching when I left for college at 18. Been decades. It would be TORTURE to have to SIT through a show. Give me a book anytime.


      1. I was a studyholic in school. No time. And then I worked. No time. And just SiTTing there for an extended period, wasting my precious time would send me to the loony bin. LOL.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. I used to be that guy you described. I would binge watch every single free second I got and nothing could stop me. This happened even in France. But now, I get that binge hangover, where I feel like I was the most unproductive person on earth. For some reason, binge-reading makes me feel MORE productive, even though it’s a similar indulgence.

    Now I’m more like you–TV time is more like a treat. I get an episode while I cook or clean and then another one to just zone out before bed. Anything more and time escapes me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, right? I just feel like there is sooo much to do. I can’t imagine just watching TV all the time. Although, I am contemplating binge watching GoT in anticipation of the upcoming season. Just sayin’ – Hahhahahaha.

      It’s all about moods and phases. Everything in moderation, eh?


  15. I actually grew up not watching TV. Ever since when America stopped allowing non-cable channels several years ago is when I stopped.

    I don’t even watch movies. Barely. I know it might be boring. But I’m okay with it.

    But I do like to watch a good TV show episode every now and then.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it takes all kinds and there are certainly a small majority 😉 who don’t partake in the boob tube. But I grew up very much influenced by TV and as far as I can tell there hasn’t been any damage 😛

      Liked by 1 person

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