The folks at the AV Club wrote one of the most thorough and compelling reviews of an episode of Clarissa Explains It All you will ever read. And it just so happens it was an episode about the dangers of watching television.
And since I’ve been re-reading Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death (written 30 years ago about the dangers of television), I found this particular analysis extremely compelling…
Television is a vast wasteland that’s nevertheless peppered with oases. It isn’t Roddenberry’s light diversion. It’s an aggressive medium, a tool for the dissemination of relatively quick, cheap, and above all unchallenging product directly into your home—don’t get up!—funded by massive corporations interested in maintaining the establishment by reinforcing conservative values, and I mean that aesthetically as much as socially.
It’s a creeping weed spread across pop culture, routinely crowding out the best and boldest, the new and the experimental. It’s easy.
But it also has all of the values Clarissa demonstrates and more. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Clarissa never defends the content, does she? She could have cited Blackadder, Twin Peaks, or Fishing With John, or someone a bit older might have, anyway.
The utilitarian defense works, but personally I think television is capable of great artistic achievements, too. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman is all the defense television needs.
But Clarissa plays it safe at the end: Television’s fun, but shouldn’t we really be playing charades with our families? There’s some irony there.
If we were playing charades with our families, we wouldn’t be able to watch Clarissa do that with hers.