Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I have been catching a good bit of NOVA this year. Since hooking up a digital converter box (yes, I am the last person in America still without cable; still waiting for the cafeteria option where I can just pick six channels or so), the tube now receives four public television stations, one of which is deliciously international and interesting. So I catch a LOT of History Detectives, America's Test Kitchen, NOVA, Nature, and the like. Yum.

Last night, we had a NOVA followed closely by a National Geographic special about stress (it's been a long time since I heard NG's theme music! Good stuff!), and the two make a really excellent pairing. NOVA discussed epigenetics, dead fascinating stuff and as always ridiculously well organized and presented. NG brought us stress, and some of the information tied in nicely with the preceding content.

My parents raised my brother and me on PBS and documentary programming of that ilk, not merely because that was in the Dark Time Before Cable TV and we only *had* all of four options - but because they were people interested in things a bit beyond "Mary Tyler Moore" and "Real People". We watched medical stuff, TONS of nature stuff (yep, who else grew up on "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom"?). My dad owned the book for "Connections" (and I watch James Burke to this day), and "Cosmos" was a serious event in our home. As were "The World at War" and several "Masterpiece Theater" series ... not least of which was my mom's 'soap opera', "Lillie", about Lillie Langtry - one of the many old BBC series I own today. It wasn't all highbrow, to be sure.

I don't know how much I loved this stuff in comparison with cartoons, back then - some offerings more than others, I'm sure. But the sense of importance with these shows, particularly with the more event-TV stuff like Sagan's opus, and serious topics from medicine and science to genuinely funny stuff like animals getting loopy on the savannah after eating fermented fruit, has definitely stuck with me. I watch a show about the unbelievably *riveting*, incredible life of a fig wasp and its particular fig tree, and am devastated with the knowledge that the geeked-up joy I get from this fascinating stuff is actually rare - is not par for everybody's childhood (or grown up) course. Being a non-parent, I find it offensive EVERYONE doesn't raise their child on these experiences.

It is, at least, a pleasure to me that this stuff "took" with me, that I'm not completely insulated in mainstream entertainment. That "America's Next Top Model" really is a sideline for me, not something I'm capable of taking quite seriously. I'm grateful to mom and dad for giving me this diet, and glad it's become something of my own too. Instructive TV is diggable stuff. Having four channels of this now, too, doesn't stink either.

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