U.S. Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor recently cited childhood days spent watching Perry Mason on TV as her inspiration for becoming a judge.
Which makes me wonder what TV character will someday inspire my kids? Zack and Cody? Hannah Montana? Carly from iCarly? God help the highest court in the land if it has to rely on this generation of TV viewers to fill its ranks in 50 years.
The truth is there aren't many characters on children's television who possess any redeeming qualities. Where are today's hunters of truth, characters who struggle against real difficulty, defy the odds and stand up for what's right? They're certainly not to be found on all the reality shows that dominate evening television or the vapid content on the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon.
Case in point: Episode 10, Season 1 of Wizards of Waverly Place, in which Justin's date with a hot new older girl is threatened by a zit that his sister compounds by making it come to life. Do you think Perry ever worried about a pimple?
I'm all for entertainment for entertainment's sake. I'm not saying every show on TV needs to have a high-minded moral message or instill kids with career aspirations. But there is a real heroism void on the tube when the top three "Outstanding Children's Programs" up for an Emmy this year are about kid wizards, a child pop star and a girl who hosts her own webshow.
Where are the real family dramas? Give me The Cosby Show, 7th Heaven, Family Ties, Eight is Enough or Little House on the Prairie. Gosh darnit, at this point, I'm so desperate for a wholesome TV role model for my kids, I'd even watch The Waltons.
Where are the TV tales that teach kids how to react to real life obstacles, story lines that don't revolve around pre-pubescent kids dating, shopping or ridiculing teachers and parents? Today, when we turn on the TV, we have a choice between the trainwreck marriage of John and Kate Plus 8, the plastic surgery dilemmas of the Real Housewives of New Jersey or The Secret Life of the American Teenager, an ABC "Family" series that tells teen girls the way to be popular is to get pregnant.
I blame cable. When children's cable shows came into being, most of the other channels figured they didn't need to bother reaching out to family audiences. But, with the exception of a few respectable cartoons for pre-schoolers, irreverent banter reigns over integrity on cable channels for kids. I'm tired of my daughters mimicking cynical, smart-mouthed brats who think their pretend-adult lives are the center of the universe.
No, we're in the TV age of the antihero. When it comes to career shopping kids, don't reach for the remote.