Thinking Inside the Box

22 October 2011

This week, we are “Thinking Inside the Box!”   The box we have in mind?  Television -- of all things.   We’re looking at TV through the lens of philosophy. 

Now we admit that television is often descried as a “vast wasteland”  of mind-numbing entertainment.  That’s how Newton N. Minnow,  former chair of the FCC, described the medium, in a very famous speech,  way back described in the 60’s.   And for his efforts,  he got a shipped named after him – the  S. S. Minnow of Gilligan Island fame.   Certainly there was and still is lots of truth in Minnow’s complaint. Far too often, TV appeals to the lowest common denominator by promoting tasteless titillation and graphic gore.

But Television also has its better angels. At its best  television can be an amazingly powerful medium.  Through the magic of television, we can experience the whole drama of human life.  Witness history unfolding.  And be transported to the far reaches of the imagination.    And our goal in this episode of Philosophy Talk is to honor and encourage the better angels of television, by shining the klieg lights on TV programs past and present, that make us think.   

We examine television programs that wrestle with gut-wrenching ethical dilemmas.   There are shows that probe the enduring conflict between faith and reason or religion and science.   And there are those that plumb the depths of mind-bending metaphysical mysteries.  We hope to make this an annual event, along the lines of our highly successful Dionysus Awards show for the most compelling philosophical movies of the year.   We haven’t framed this one as an award show, since we are as much focused on honoring shows of the past as shows of the present.   But our goal is the same in both instances – to help do our tiny little part to encourage more thought-provoking program in the vast wasteland.  

 To help us out, we’ll be joined on air by a slew of thoughtful people – including a pair of television critics,  some past guests of our show, and a line up of regular listeners.     We’d also like you to join in the discussion by contributing your observations about thought-provoking TV to this open blog entry. 

Comments (3)

Guest's picture


Saturday, October 22, 2011 -- 5:00 PM

Foyle's War on KQED

Foyle's War on KQED (especialliy this season) deals with ethical and thought-provoking material around issues of war. I find myself thinking about Foyle's intentions long after the show is over.

Guest's picture


Sunday, October 23, 2011 -- 5:00 PM

I have not thought much about

I have not thought much about the value of television for at least twenty years. When I was much younger, it had some entertainment value and some informational value. Things changed when media, generally, began to tell us how we should think about questions of morality, ethics and social consciousness. I can think and develop my own Observations, live my own Experiences, and form my own Opinions---without a need for omni-put from those who assert their superiority in deciding what is best for me. Sorry. I am better than that-and am not afraid to admit that I know it. As for "entertainment TV"? What is that, really?

Guest's picture


Wednesday, October 26, 2011 -- 5:00 PM

Call me shallow but... Pitch

Call me shallow but... Pitch by pitch, swing by swing, and play by play the World series is about as emotionally deep as TV gets.
Its a real peanut and cracker jack nail biter,