Ambiences and Tendencies

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A Further Exploration of an American Idol

TV in the Dentist Chair

Joseph Sheppard

Television seems to have become such a necessity in our society that they are now mandatory accouterments in medical office waiting rooms. The obligatory blue glow may be seen permeating the interior of apartment complexes and suburban abodes twenty-four hours a day, from sea to shining sea. Apparently such mental “nourishment” is as critical as air and water.

Since my last article on the topic [click here], I have encountered a further advancement in TV use in medical facilities. Upon moving to a new area of town, I sought out a new dentist. I arrived for my first appointment and found, to my surprise, my old friend the television on a customized stand a few feet from the dental examination chair. Some silliness was being broadcast on the typical morning show that featured America’s latest glamour stars, news broadcasters. I asked the dental assistant to please turn off the unnecessary piece of equipment, and she kindly obliged.

A dentist cartoon
I later discovered that every examination room is equipped with a television, and that this has become a common practice in up-to-date dental offices. Of course, speakers throughout the whole dental office broadcast the soothing sounds of “soft rock,” including a popular “oldie” heard by my twelve and nine-year-old daughters about a man’s encounter with a transvestite. As I left the office during the last visit, I noticed an elderly man and woman plying through copies of popular magazines that gossip about the latest intrigues of Hollywood personalities. I must say that my dentist and his staff do an excellent job regarding our dental care. I merely wish to point out what has been accepted for some time as a normal ambience for this profession.

One should not be too surprised to find televisions in new settings every day. Statistics show that 99% of homes have at least one TV, with 50% of homes having three. The average time per day the television is on in an American household is 7 hours and 40 minutes. (1)

The television has also long been a necessity for some who take their meals in front of it. This tendency seems to have begun with the “TV dinner” in the 1960s, and the supplementary “TV tray.” These inventions made it convenient to watch television and consume a meal; they also made it more “inconvenient” for a family to sit down and have a civilized dinner together. According to one study, 40% of families always watch television when they eat dinner. (2)
1. "RealVision, A Project of TV-Turnoff Network" at
2. Ibid.
It is revealing to note how much is spent on equipping homes for the latest TV equipment. Upon moving into our current home, we discovered the typical “TV-ready” environment. There was a satellite dish on the roof and a cable connection in every room (except, thankfully, the bathrooms). In January of 2005 alone, $876 million dollars was spent by Americans on “big-screen” TVs (top ten manufacturers). (3) January is the largest sales month for this market because of the annual Super Bowl event. This year promises to be no different as thousands continue to part with thousands to have the best screen possible.
3., January 12, 2006
In summary, the television, like other electronic inventions, is not evil in and of itself. A problem arises when its use becomes an intrusive, manipulative obsession. As in all things, vigilance and moderation are needed. It must also be said that present programming on television is poisonous. No responsible parent would let their children watch television. Present day commercials alone should provide enough incentive to ban the TV.

However, when disconnected from the networks, the satellite, and the cable, and used as an educational tool or occasional source of legitimate entertainment, the television can be a useful tool. Do not let this tool become, as some have, an American idol.

Posted February 9, 2005

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