A New Twist on Saturday Morning

I don’t watch a lot of television. I don’t own a proper one – I get what I need by running a cable into the back of my media center PC, and mostly, I’m watching re-runs of quality programming via Amazon Plus.

It’s a grey, chilly weekend in San Diego – a rarity to be sure, but one that makes me want to burrow and hibernate. So after leaving the gym at 8 this morning, I stopped by Jack-In-The-Box for a large coffee, then hurried home to a steamy bowl of oatmeal. For the heck of I turned on the ‘tube.’

I don’t know what I was looking for; maybe a morning news show or something. I remember Saturday morning was always the nearly exclusive bailey-wick of cartoons. As I kid, I looked forward to an hour or two of Buggs Bunny and the Road Runner almost every Saturday. But today, when I tuned into CBS I saw something different.

They’ve aparantly revamped their whole Saturday morning schedule with something called The Dream Team. It is a set of six half hour programs, geared toward teenagers (but of much broader appeal), of an educational and inspirational nature. I saw bits of two of them with a whole episode of Recipe Rehab sandwiched in between.

The first bit I saw was Innovation Nation, which presents fascinating accounts of inventors and inventions.  I saw a clip about the fellow who came up with the first digital camera.  At the end of the show is a segment where a couple of the more difficult words used in the program are defined.  I’m pleased to say I learned the real definition of ‘harbinger.’  I’d always given it an ominous spin because it seemed most often to preceed ‘of death.’  A ‘harbinger of death,’ being a precursor or for-teller of the END.  That’s not correct.  A harbinger is anything that essentially changes the game.  It is an event or moment that impacts everything that follows.  So the invention of the digital camera was a harbinger of present day photography.

Next I watched a whole episode of Recipe Rehab.  Now this was really cool!  It’s a cooking show, kinda, that aims to remake popular but unhealthy dishes into tasty, healthy versions.  This episode started with an normal unhealthy American family talking about Mom’s famous chicken and dumplings.  She starts with 3 cans of Campbell s Cream of Mushroom Soup and ends with canned biscuits.  With almost 4,000 Mg of Sodium per serving, I guess there’s little wonder that Dad has high blood pressure!  Two chefs are challenged to make a healthy version of the dish in 45 minutes.  One takes an Asian route, substituting homemade chicken won-tons for dumplings.  The other sticks closer to the original recipe, using a homemade vegetable soup as a base and using quinoa flour and chia seeds for the dumplings.

In the end the two dishes are ranked by the family – who had to make both from the recipes the chefs developed – on ease of prep and taste.  The show’s experts rated them on nutritional value.  The second recipe won but only by a point . . . and that’s not the point!  It was great fun watching the two chefs mull how to put something together that would approach the original recipe.  I learned a number of things I intend to use in my own kitchen.

Finally, I watched a little of Leila Ali’s show on adventurers.  She’s Mohammed Ali’s daughter, you know.  The bit I saw featured a Norwegian female cliff jumper scaling a 4,000 foot rock formation in the desert in Mali to leap off in a flying suit.  It was thrilling and very well photographed.  A beautiful show.

I am so happy to know that the programming people at CBS decided to take a substantial risk on providing quality programming aimed at young people during a time slot usually reserved for pablum.  It’s really good stuff – and though I doubt I’ll tune in live again, all of the shows are archived at CBS.com, so in my infrequent television moments, I’ll pick them up there.


Dr. Dick McKenna* once explained that the function of public education is to transmit the culture.

In America, the public school was the vehicle for teaching our children how to be American. They learned our history – which includes the fables and legends that color it – our values, our means of communication, our method of counting and so on. They also learned important cultural lessons relating to behavior; that you wait your turn, that you don’t disrupt a group, that you are on time, that you are respectful of others.

After 12 years of this kind of indoctrination, the schools graduated adults who were ready to take on the responsibility of earning a living, building families, contributing to the public good and voting.

I’ve been thinking about it this morning . . .

I”m not sure that it is particularly true today. I’m not sure the schools are transmitting the culture anymore – or perhaps the culture they are transmitting is being over-shadowed by a different culture.

I think kids today get most of their cultural indoctrination from media: television, video games, social media, music, the Internet. Compared to the well organized, carefully orchestrated environment of the classroom, this hodge podge of stimuli is chaotic. AND, this mess of media generally has the same agenda: to sell something other than culture! Too often, the lessons our media teaches young people are clothed in sex and glamour, wealth and tacky opulence. It is teaching kids that by looking and behaving a certain way, they can expect to become rich and to be beyond reproach.

We have kids who idolize Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton but who can’t tell you anything about Amelia Earhart. Boys who look up to Snoop Dog and know nothing about Jonas Salk and what he accomplished.

I think we, as a culture, learned a lot from Jerry Springer. We didn’t realize we were learning when we tuned in to see yet another group of trashy people hollering at one another and rolling around on the floor. We laughed . . . but we also came to believe that he who yells loudest, wins – no matter what the truth may be. Observe the tone of American politics in 2014/15 vs. say ’85, ’95 or any time twenty years ago.

I understand that, from a biological standpoint, devolution is a falacy. It is based on the notion that evolution is always a progression toward something better (and therefore, devolution would be a down-grade). The truth is, evolution is just a response to the environment. It will take a species in the direction that best prepares the species to survive in its environment. Given that, what is the environment that encourages the apes that roam our streets today to survive, even thrive?

Give me George Washington and the cherry tree any day.

*McKenna was one of the smartest people I ever knew. He was an Industrial Psychologist who became the soul and conscience of Century 21 in the early days of that company (’70s – ’80s). I learned more about marketing and group dynamics from him than anyone else. Dick McKenna on marketplace intelligence: ’You must massage your numbers until they throb!’