Monday, August 17, 2009

Public Television Saved My Life

I am a very big fan of PBS. I’ll admit it. Actually, I think they take your Liberal Card away if you are a left-winger who doesn’t support your local PBS station. I routinely check the programming guide to see what our public television stations have to offer if I ever find myself with a few unscheduled, quiet moments. It’s a hidden treasure that unfortunately gets overlooked in this day of a thousand channels and skank-filled reality shows.

I fought my husband for years over cable. I believe that less is more when it comes to television, and the more channels you have, the more tempting it is to waste your life away in front of the screen. Until he was in school, my son only watched the children’s programs offered by PBS (if he watched at all), and that was fine with me. Elmo and Big Bird helped him with his letters and numbers while “Dragon Tales” and “Clifford the Big Red Dog” offered giggles and a life lesson every now and then. He even enjoyed “Anne of Green Gables”.

So, what’s not to love about PBS? I can’t imagine celebrating Independence Day without watching “A Capital Fourth”. And before we had seventeen food channels, Julia Child and Graham Kerr showed us with ease how they could whip up fabulous dishes while keeping us entertained at the same time. What about Ken Burns? I thoroughly enjoyed watching his interpretation of the Civil War and then arguing back at him that he didn’t have his facts straight. And how would I have gotten to know Carl Sagan without “Nova”? Oh, and don’t even get me started on “Austin City Limits”. I could fill a book with the names of all the great bands I’ve seen on that show.

Even though my children have access to hundreds of channels, we still watch “Arthur” in the morning while getting ready for school. They complain when the station has glitches (and this is frequently), but I tell them that PBS is poor compared to the Disney channel or Nickelodeon. I ask them to be patient because someone’s Uncle Bob is probably running the control board and more than likely, he just dozed off for a minute or two.

I appreciate the fact that I’m not bombarded with smart-mouthed “tweens” and toy advertisements on PBS like I am with the cable networks. I have to remind my kids that talking back to their parents like Hannah Montana does, won’t result in a chuckle from a Disney laugh track. It will result in them never watching that trash again. I don't have to worry about that happening with the children's programming on PBS.

Last week, I was having the day from hell. It was one hundred degrees in the shade, with arguing children, a husband working long hours, and school supplies to be purchased after a crappy day at work. I was dragging my kids from store to store, sweating down to my underwear, on a quest for the elusive “perfect pair of shoes”. We finally arrived back home close to 9pm and still the kids needed their baths. I passed them off to my husband and plopped down into my chair with a glass of wine. I was contemplating either running away to join the circus, or simply sucking down every ounce of alcohol in the house. Instead, I turned on PBS. And there he was - the late Stevie Ray Vaughn, one of my favorites, filmed live in concert at various locations around the world. I couldn’t believe my luck! I relaxed back and tapped my toes for the next two hours.

I realized at that point that I was probably going to make it. I got a commercial-free concert and my sanity back all at once. PBS came to my rescue again. So the next time you complain about funding public television, just look at it as your tax dollars saving one frazzled 40-year-old mom at a time. And this mom thanks you.

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