Thursday, July 15, 2010

“Learning About Her World”

My five-year-old daughter, who shall remain nameless here because I will someday need her to fund my nursing home care, has already developed a frightening interest in certain offensive cable TV programs.

Don’t blame me. I’ve worked very hard to keep the objectionable influences of television out of my home. In fact, we don’t even own a TV. We have friends who think nothing of dropping $900 on a high-def, flat-screen plasma state-of-the-art box that does basically the same thing as my old Philco did 25 years ago.

Our living room, on the other hand, features a wood stove and a globe. The chairs face each other, if you can imagine that.

But I’m no cultural snob. I just don’t see the point of paying for cable or satellite when there are plenty of good shows available on the Internet, shows like “Dora the Explorer” and “Blues Clues.”

We recently started watching “The Jeff Corwin Experience,” in which a crazed biologist tromps through jungles and swamps so he can capture snakes, alligators, and other dangerous creatures. Each capture comes with scary background music, followed by a two-minute lecture about the animal, which is a little awkward. I mean, have you ever been talked about on camera while someone is gripping you firmly by the neck? No wonder the snakes always look so ticked off.

On the other hand, an Indian elephant looked relatively calm while Corwin cured it of constipation, using a method I’d rather not describe, except to say it required him (Corwin) to don a latex glove covering the entire length of his arm.

And you thought our health care system was bad!

Anyway, there are plenty of quality television programs available in my house. “House Hunters: International” is not one of them.

Each episode features a person or couple seeking a new dwelling in some exotic place. Through obviously scripted and staged interactions with a realtor, the potential buyers usually lament their “limited budget,” which typically turns out to be at least double or triple the cost of an average house in my neighborhood.

“House Hunters” offers all the tension and unpredictability of a public radio telethon. They look at three properties, two of which are completely disgusting because they have (gasp!) only five bedrooms or something. At the end they reveal which house they selected, only for the building inspection to reveal a termite infestation and animal carcasses used for attic insulation.

I wish.

(I can’t wait for “House Hunters: Maine,” in which a family of five looks at three different trailers, and eventually picks the one with the tarp on the roof, but only because it already comes with three junk vehicles and two cord of firewood in the dooryard.)

I don’t get it. My daughter could not watch “Elmo In Grouchland” because it was too intense. She still fears unplugging the bathtub because she might get sucked down the drain, and she spends most of her day pretending to be fairies or furry animals or fairies tending to the needs of furry animals. And she keeps asking to watch this real estate show.

What’s going on here?

My wife, who enjoys “House Hunters” but acknowledges that it spews near-criminal levels of materialism and superficiality, thinks I’m getting worked up over nothing.

“She’s learning about her world,” she says.

I guess as long as this “world” includes adventuring with a talking monkey that wears boots and sticking your arm into a pachyderm’s colon with no discernible consequences, I can live with that.

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