Television: A Vast Wasteland

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The Cosby Show was the pinnacle of American television. Based on an affluent African-American family in Brooklyn, New York, The Cosby Show demonstrated how to effectively raise a family. The sitcom starred Phylicia Rashad as Clair Huxtable, a confident, assertive, and eloquent attorney. Alongside Rashad was Bill Cosby as Cliff Huxtable, an eccentric and whimsical obstetrician. Together, Clair and Cliff reared five children in the midst of several complex obstacles. When faced with Sondra’s decision not to go to law school, Denise’s decision to discontinue her education, Theo’s satisfaction with mediocre grades, and Vanessa’s rebellious behavior, the Huxtables never ceased to use humor and discipline to convey strong moral principles. The Huxtables taught their children as well as viewers to work hard in school, challenge socially constructed gender roles, have strong familial relationships, and most importantly, not take themselves too seriously.

Despite The Cosby Show’s brevity of only eight years, it managed to leave a permanent mark as an embodiment of positive social change. Unfortunately, shows of The Cosby Show’s caliber are simply nonexistent in today’s television programming. Today’s television consists of over one thousand channels but little substance. Though May 9th, 2011 will mark the 50th anniversary of Newton N. Minow’s landmark “vast wasteland” speech, his words perfectly encapsulate the state of today’s television. Television was and still remains a “vast wasteland” by poorly shaping moral values, reinforcing negative stereotypes, misinforming viewers, containing violence, and causing viewers to make poor health and financial decisions.

One of the main contributors to viewers’ poor moral values is reality telev...

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