What little television I used to watch was primarily devoted to science and nature, with a bit of news and sports on the side. Unfortunately, what remains of that genre is now filled with human melodrama and a mix of reality shows focused on dysfunctional people. If you hope to get a forecast from the Weather Channel, expect to wade through a chorus of zany meteorologists, lifestyle advice experts, tornado chasers, and an ever-expanding collection of programs on characters such as turbine cowboys, bombastic ice pilots and, starting this week, macho iron workers.
The Discovery and History Channels are no better, offering a steady diet of shows on gator hunters, daredevil loggers, bleary-eyed truckers, death-defying crabbers and, just this year, full-metal jousters. Even the storied Nature program on PBS has shifted toward a more humanistic view of the natural world, seemingly in response to the public's drift from true science to emotionally satisfying entertainment. Fortunately, programs such as Frontline and NOVA continue to offer informative and fascinating presentations.
The dearth of good science programming on television is likely a concious effort of media moguls to compete with the varied enticements of the Internet. Grabbing viewers with serious, thoughtful content has, sadly, been largely abandoned. Promising an inside look at the lives of New Jersey Housewives has become their mode of operation and the future of educational television looks bleak indeed.