Commentary: The old frontier of TV might still be just as good

I'm giving you, the faithful ETC… reader, a break from controversial columns and writing about something I'm sure we can all agree on: television.

I was out with a friend not too long ago at Maryland Day, an event at the University of Maryland College Park (our alma mater) that celebrates all things University of Maryland.

One of the department exhibits was a quiz hosted by the psychology department on young people and the media, which my friend and I decided to take for fun.

One of the questions was something like, "Do teenagers today watch more or less TV than their parents?"

We guessed "more," but we were wrong! According to the UMD psychology department, young people today are watching less TV, mostly because they watch more shows online.

We agreed that this makes sense, but it also made me think about television in general, which seems to have gotten increasingly complicated since I was a kid.

With more shows being viewed online, the TV landscape nowadays is littered with reality shows.

Here is a sample TV schedule for 9 p.m. on a weekday night, which last I checked was still being called "prime time": "Celebrity Wife Swap," "Jane By Design," "Kitchen Nightmares"(on BBC),"Tosh.0," "Property Virgins" and "Teen Mom 2: Breaking Point."

I will watch the occasional"America's Next Top Model,"but I don't understand the demand for a lot of reality TV.

My life is filled with reality already. My days include highly realistic things like driving to work, doing work, having serious conversations on uninteresting topics, dealing with bills and cats and difficult people.

The one thing I don't want to see, at the end of any weekday, is more reality.

This is part of the reason I don't watch a lot of what you might call "modern shows," which brings me to my second story.

One day in the not-so-distant past, my roommate walked in the house and made an observation that I was once again watching "The Dick Van Dyke Show," which is 40 years old.

I pointed out that if there was something better on TV than "The Dick Van Dyke Show," I would be more than willing to watch it.

But there wasn't. More often than not, "The Dick Van Dyke Show" is as good as it's going to get.

I know other people do tune in for real shows like"Dexter"or"The Good Wife"or"New Girl"or"Glee,"but my very inconsistent work schedule has apparently combined with my short attention span to create a lethal situation where I just can't get invested in a new show.

What this means is I spend a lot of time watching random older shows, or TV Land. In fairness, I watched a lot of TV Land in college, so I guess that's just a pattern.

So maybe kids these days have the right idea by Hulu-ing (is that a verb yet?) everything.

This brings me to my third story:"House of Cards."

I recently wrote about this new series, which will be filmed in warehouses in Joppatowne and Edgewood, and which will be shown exclusively online, on Netflix.

The Internet is clearly the new frontier for television shows (or Internet shows?).

Then again, when I went on Hulu during a recent weekend, I only ended up watching three episodes of"Saturday Night Live"in a row.

So even the magic of the Internet didn't seem to help in bringing me up to date on newer shows.

That was the part when I gave up, turned off all the electronics, and went over to my friend's house. She was playing with her baby, and her husband was watching football in the background.

It turned out to be more entertaining than watching pretty much anything alone.

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