I saw the “Three Worst TV Shows” thread and figured there were so -many- of them that I couldn’t begin to pick just three. So I decided to list stuff that I like to watch and why, and under what conditions.
Family Guy - In small doses. I like satire, since my second focus of study, after folklore, was Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope.
Swift and Pope both used a form of satire called “hyperbole,” which means to blow things out of proportion to make a point. For example, in “A Modest Proposal,” Swift starts off suggesting that Irish babies be bought by the English for food. Once that shocked people into having a cat, he then listed his real suggestions for helping the Irish, which were all decent and thoughtful. The idea is to shock people into seeing their prejudices in stark color, bringing them out of “respectable” thinking, and forcing them to see the ugliness in their own minds.
Family Guy does that, but unfortunately the satirical message gets lost in fornication, perversion, and unnecessary violence.
South Park - Now this show I can appreciate because, while it also uses a ton of hyperbole, most of the shows I’ve seen have a point where the main characters come and spell out the moral, and you’re surprised to realize that it actually is moral. For example, the episode “The Jeffersons” tackled both the belief that white cops go out of their way to plant evidence to convict rich black men (OJ Simpson anyone?) and the fact that parents, once they have children, must be willing to take responsibility for raising their kids, not trying to be a “friend” to them, but by being responsible adults. Again, the satire is designed to shock, in order to get you to think beyond your own prejudices. Unlike Family Guy, though, almost every episode has a moral to it, and you can see genuine positive emotions and friendships between some of the characters. …but I’d never let my kids watch it alone, and not until they were teenagers at any rate.
Transformers - Good old fashioned goofy 1980’s goodness. When cartoons could be corny and fun, when good guys were good and bad guys were cowards. The story line focused almost exclusively on character development, rather than on a plot with little characterization, so you got a good feel for the people in the story. Even if they were giant robots. When the FCC meant business and the Comic’s Code Authorites would shun anything that didn’t have a happy ending, and had too many blood splatters, and had bad guys actually trying to hurt the good guys…
Batman - Campy 1960’s goofiness, combined with a passion for science and technology. Unlike our beloved Dark Knight, this Batman was a kind soul, with a thoughtful mind and a scientific bend that encouraged kids to learn more about their world. He was there for the cops, to help and guide them, and to help them out when they were limited. But he never broke his own code of justice. And the Holy… lines were corny goodness.