My family did not have television until I turned ten years old when my parents decided it was time to introduce their daughters to educational shows which I unfortunately can't remember seeing much of. Perhaps I got enough exposure to history and science at school (where I remember feeling sorry for an already unconscious frog about to be dissected) and didnt' feel the need for more exposures of this type, but there must have been some worthy educational programs on TV given my parents' motive for buying a television set in the first place. I just don't recall ever watching any program by Don Herbert http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Herbert or hearing of Mr. Wizard and only recently discovered Mr. Rogers http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Rogers in the last decade.
My parents must have anticipated and tried to postpone the unavoidable, as I quickly became addicted to random TV watching, consequently reading much less books. However, they limited my TV watching hours with some success to two half-hour shows on school days and three shows on Saturdays and Sundays, which were quickly used up between a medieval drama series (that revolved around repeated attempts of politically motivated abduction of a beautiful Japanese princess that are consistently thwarted week after week by the same loyal and handsome retainer samurai on a white horse) and various reruns of American TV shows (dubbed in Japanese) such as Raw Hide http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rawhide_%28TV_series%29 , Zorro and Lone Ranger.
Other shows I liked featured intelligent animals such as Rin Tin Tin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rin_Tin_Tin (a German Shepherd,) Lassie http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lassie (a Collie,) and Flipper http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flipper_%281964_TV_series%29 (a dolphin.)
Later on, I remember watching creative Japanese animation series such as GeGeGe no Kitaro http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gegege_no_kitaro , an original period drama series Mito Komon (the invincible sleuth being a retired Shogun travelling incognito on a personal mission to eradicate corruption) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mito_K%C5%8Dmon and an animation series based on the Finnish novel, The Moomins. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moomin I also watched feature films with child protagonists such as Jeux interdits http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forbidden_Games and Treasure Island based on a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Sometimes I wonder how these shows influenced (positively or negatively) my perceptions of storytelling and my taste in literature, although my taste in juvenile literature (Russian fairy tales such as The Firebird, Japanese folk tales such as Kaguyahime and Bunbukuchagama, fairy tales compiled by writers such as Hans Christian Andersen and the Grimm brothers, classics such as The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlöf) probably also determined my taste for certain types of shows on television. I definitely gravitated towards fictional storytelling as opposed to purely entertainment-oriented shows such as quiz shows (which are arguably educational with a focus on often uninteresting trivia) and talent shows.
As a child in (the Swiss psychologist) Piaget's early concrete operational stage, I was fascinated by the bond between the main protagonists and their intelligent animal friends (like in the case of the young samurai on a white horse, Zorro and his horse Toronado, Lone Ranger and his horse Silver, Rusty and his dog Rin Tin Tin, Joe and his dog Lassie, and Sandy and Bud and their dolphin Flipper,) and at a later stage, was drawn increasingly to the theme of social justice (as in Mito Komon) and the creative world of imagination such as the Moominvalley and Kitaro's supernatural world of demons and ghosts.
It's difficult to say which childhood TV shows were a waste of my precious time but if I remember them at all they must have survived somehow my scrutiny of what is or isn't a complete waste of my time. I know I must have wasted many hours on shows which are not worth remembering or mentioning. After voracious TV watching for about five years, as I finally entered the formal operational stage (i.e. when I started studying geometry and algebra at school, excelling in both,) my attraction to television gave way to reading short stories in English, although I continued to watch TV from time to time. (I remember watching Green Mansions that takes place in a Guyanese jungle with Audrey Hepburn as Rima based on a novel by William Henry Hudson which I had also read in the original English.)
Much earlier, I had read novels in Japanese such as The Secret Garden and Wonderful Adventures of Nils, translated into Japanese, and a story about a boy in Hokkaido who develops a strong bond with a cow (Oyakoushi by Ishimori Nobuo http://www.worldcat.org/title/ishimori-nobuo-jido-bungaku-zenshu/oclc/56... ) , all having a theme focusing on human interaction with Nature. However, it took me several years to develop sufficient reading skills for reading longer novels in English after transferring from a Japanese school to an international school, where I was placed in a Special English class taught by an ESL teacher from Hawaii for a year with children of all ages and different nationalities - Hong Kong Chinese, Finnish, American, Russian, etc. with interesting first names such as Eija and Kumkum - specifically to learn just enough English before entering fifth grade. The first poem I recall reading in English (at the age of ten going on eleven, read out loud by my mother who had me repeat after her during bedtime reading) was The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear. Some of the first stories in English I read at home were from a collection of Shakespeare's tales rewritten for children in accessible prose with illustrations. (By my sophomore year, I could tackle Romeo and Juliet just as well as other students in my high school English class and I'm sure that such preliminary reading helped.) And the very first non-YAL novel I remember reading with facility in English that truly gripped me was The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway (which I have read about three times since then.)
Perhaps a reading background such as this explains my penchant for stories involving young protagonists, honorable elders, intelligent animals (real or fictitious,) and adventures (travels or transitions from one world to another, whether they involve civilizations or wilderness, real cultures or imaginary ones.)
Later on, my TV watching (apart from news, random explorations of various PBS programs and talk shows) as an adult has focused predominantly on classic and contemporary films based on various novels (spy, detective, war, science fiction, young adult, fantasy, classic) many (including War and Peace and Anna Karenina) of which I have not read.
Well-made feature films in general tend to have the advantage of being superior to lower budget TV films (although I should avoid such sweeping generalization given the exception of some excellent BBC films such as the film on Gerald Durrell's upbrining on Corfu http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Family_and_Other_Animals_%28film%29 and other good serialized TV films such as All Creatures Great and Small. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Creatures_Great_and_Small_%28TV_series%... ) The 2 to 3-hour time frame for a film compares favorably to short stories that can be read at one sitting in a single afternoon or novellas that can be finished by reading late into the night, TV series being more like a chapter book.
Which TV shows from the past would you resurrect for the future generations? Are they sophisticated enough for the contemporary youngsters? Do they offer narratives that can nurture the developing mind in ways good literature can?
Could other forms of audio-visual story-telling replace many of the current TV shows for adults who have reached the post-formal operational stage? Such as TED talks? http://www.ted.com/talks/tags/storytelling http://redroom.com/member/kim-packard/blog/ted-playlist
Afterthought: The Developing Sense of Humor
I just popped the question to an American graduate student I know asking him to name his favorite TV shows from when he was in the 1) concrete operational stage and 2) formal operational stage. He feels that the TV show favorites he named reflected more a development of his sense of humor whereas his taste in film (such as V for Vendetta based on a comic book http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V_for_Vendetta_%28film%29 ) would be a better indication of his cognitive development.
2) The Wonder Years http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wonder_Years and Invader Zim http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Frycook_What_Came_from_All_That_Space