Everything I know I learned from the Cleavers

MIKE LITTWIN

March 05, 1993|By MIKE LITTWIN

The federal government has made it official: Most children's ++ TV is dumb. Now, there's a scoop for you.

Of course, most children's TV is dumb. Virtually all TV is dumb. As far as I can tell, that's the point of the medium -- at least the TV that anybody watches. Or don't the words "Fox Network" mean anything to you?

The FCC, an actual initial-filled government agency, made this observation in the wake of a 1990 law on children's TV that some goody-goodies sneaked through an apparently unaware Congress. What was it, network lobbyists' day off? The law says children's TV should meet a certain educational standard, and the Clinton people mean to enforce it.

Are they nuts?

You want education, try books. You'd be amazed at the stuff that's in them.

I don't think we're ready to tell little Jane and little Johnny to skip doing their homework because they can get all the education they need by gathering around the old boob tube.

The FCC got upset because some TV stations, whose licenses are up for renewal, had suggested "The Flintstones" and "The Jetsons" as shows they considered educational. Maybe that looks strange to you, too. But if you take local TV news as a point of comparison, I think they can make their case.

Here's an actual citation on a Yogi Bear cartoon: "Snag learns that he can capture the bank-robbing cockroach more successfully by using his head rather than his muscles."

Good point. And, by the way, for me Boo Boo is the cartoon equivalent of Edward R. Murrow.

OK, your kid could be watching "Nova." He's not. You're not either. You're watching "America's Funniest Home Videos Involving an Ambulance." What do you expect from your kids?

Actually, kids' TV is important on many levels.

* Trivia. When was the last time you sat around and played "Masterpiece Theatre" trivia? I'm guessing never. But you probably can't count the number of times you've been asked to name the colleges the professor taught at before being shipwrecked with Gilligan. You want the government to take this from your children?

* Health policy. If you're a teen-ager and you tell people in school you didn't watch "Beverly Hills 90210" -- in which 35-year-olds play teen-agers in the Dwayne Hickman/Dobie Gillis tradition -- because you were watching "Biography" on Arts & Entertainment instead, you'll get beaten to a pulp.

* The future. What's the kid going to talk about 20 years from now? At lunch the other day, we were talking about how Eddie Haskell and Alice Cooper were probably the same person.

As far as I'm concerned, you can't really understand America unless you've watched a lot of "Leaver It To Beaver." Here's a typical Beaver episode:

The Beav is standing outside his house with a rock in his hand. Eddie Haskell tells Beav that he should throw the rock through the window of the house across the street.

"The lady wants you to do it, Beav," Eddie says.

"Neat, Eddie," the Beav says.

So he throws the rock, crashes it through a window and they run away. Next scene is in the bedroom the Beav shares with brother Wally. "Boy, you dumb kid. You're gonna get it now, Beaver. Wait till Dad finds out."

We flash to Ward and June in the kitchen. June is wearing a dress. She always wears a dress. Ward is wearing a dumb expression.

"Did you see the crater-sized hole in the house across the street?" Ward asks. "I hope our kids weren't involved in that."

"Oh, Ward, don't be silly. The boys are up in their room reading and not watching dumb TV shows that will be attacked by government agencies years from now."

Flash to the dinner table.

Ward asks: "Wally, do you know anything about the crater-sized hole?"

Wally says: "Gosh, Dad, everyone's heard about it."

Ward asks: "Beaver? Beaver?"

Beaver says: "I did it, Dad. I'm sorry. Eddie made me do it. Eddie is the devil."

Ward says: "It's all right, Beav, just go and apologize, and I'll call the exorcist for Eddie and maybe we can get him straightened out. What's for dessert, dear?"

Educational?

Well, it's got a moral. That should count for something. Never listen to Eddie Haskell or people will always think you died in Vietnam.

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