TV Stinks: Baby Mama Drama

Not all toxins come in through bad food or polluted air and water. They can come in electronically, as well. As a culture, we have to address the audio-visual toxicity we are being subjected to daily. Food used to be better. TV used to be better too. We need to clean it all up.


By Mary Duggan

I just want to watch TV without despairing.

Okay, I’m reaching across the political aisle once again with a hug for John Kass. I frequently disagree with the Chicago Tribune’s John Kass, but emotionally I often connect with him, especially his annual holiday piece.  I think I would really enjoy being his neighbor, especially when his grill is fired up. Today though JK was fired up on an issue where he and I are in whole-hearted agreement. All my babies’ mamas, REALLY Oxygen? Really? We want to go here? Can’t we draw the line at abysmal with Honey Boo Boo?


Rapper Shawty Lo in an image from “All My Babies’ Mamas” from YouTube. (January 2, 2013)


Where have you gone David Susskind?

When I was a kid, and I am aging myself here, TV was kind of wonderful. For me that wonderful was personified by a publicist, turned talent agent, turned producer named David Susskind. Also well known as a talk show host, Susskind exposed me to the most wonderful dramas. I have never fully recovered from of Mice and Men (1968) with a young George Segal. Tragically I understand that this was made on videotape and did not survive. Segal also captivated me that same year in The Desperate Hours, again the work of David Susskind. I remember my older sister walking in on me, an eigth-grader, watching Mia Farrow and Ian Bannen in 1967’s Johnny Belinda. OMG, you are way too young for this, she screeched with her 8 years older than me righteousness. Luckily she gave up her indignation quickly and I had a TV experience I have never forgotten. Thanks to David Susskind. I miss, really miss that kind of TV. Sometimes on HBO I come close to it; but I have to really look and look hard.


Teachers assigned TV shows as homework. Really.

Progressive teachers in the 1960s were actually assigning some of these shows to their students as homework.  TV did not plant the seed for me to become a writer, the Bronte sisters had already done that; but it nurtured that seed. With these homework assignments exciting and inspiring teachers were making me aware that writers were the reason for the TV season. And that provided me with a wonderful goal; it captured my imagination that words mattered and my stories could be read and even dramatized. The inspiration was never to become a celebrity, or reality TV star, but a legitimate writer with a voice that mattered and stories worth the telling. That is the critical part in all of this. TV taught me lots about being a human being; it was edifying and inspirational and thought-provoking even though Bewitched was a big hit.


I experience some of that feeling now when I watch the work of Aaron Sorkin.

A screw up at WOW, our cable provider, earned us an apology in the form of okay we’ll add HBO to your package. First time ever access to HBO for any of us combined with a holiday break that actually was all about being exhausted, then sick and then grief-stricken over the death of a much-loved pet. As the strength to sit under an afghan and a remote at the same time returned we dove into the first season of The Newsroom and loved it. One episode a day for ten days of stand and cheer TV. Thank you, Aaron Sorkin and HBO.


Django Unchained, maybe. Shawty Lo, no way.

I’ve been culturally wrestling in recent days with seeing my first Quentin Tarentino film. Descriptions of violence have kept me from all of his previous films. But the debate over the worthiness of his latest film, Django Unchained, has me curious; though my reluctance will probably win out. I always try to withhold my viewing dollars from violent films. I am careful about my spending. Dollars have powerful voices. This year I spent my holiday dollars on Lincoln and I have no regrets.

In his thought provoking commentary in today’s Chicago Tribune Clarence Page references Abraham Lincoln while reflecting on the baby mama drama. “Lincoln Freed us for this?”  Surely not. But with David Susskind likely turning over in his grave, and Aaron Sorkin already spoken for, who is going to step into the abyss and get Honey Boo Boo to a nutritionist and Shawty Lo in for a vasectomy? Who is going to save TV? And will I be alive for that emancipation? Where are schoolteachers directing young folks these days?  I can only imagine.


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