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The After School TV Blue

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Chances are your children come home from school feeling like they’ve run the 100-meter sprint. Exhausted from a hard day over the books, they want some “R ‘n R” time, and the most likely place they’ll choose to recline is in front of the television.

But what’s on the tube at that time of day? Unfortunately, like so many other mainstays in the television schedule, the post school hours are no longer guaranteed safe sailing for young eyes. A quick check of some major US stations this week showed a selection of programs that were a far cry from the Bugs Bunny and Flintstones cartoons I used to vegetate in front of.

The good news is public broadcaster are, for the most part, still cognizant of the need to provide something that’s both entertaining and a little educational to their afternoon audiences. Thus, on Los Angeles’s KCET, you’ll find old standards like Reading Rainbow along with Zoom and Cyberchase. The only downside is their children’s section ends at 4:00 PM, which will likely send their viewers searching for other alternatives.

Of the major stations, a second place nod goes to WB network affiliate KTLA. While their selection of Saturday morning animation programs (Pokemon, MegaMan: NT Warrior) may not be at all educational, at least they keep kids in mind. As the afternoon moves into dinnertime, live action reruns take over, with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Everybody Loves Raymond on their current schedule.

However, there is a wide discrepancy between markets, even if the stations belong to the same network. That’s because individual affiliates often make their own programming selections to fill late afternoon timeslots. So the latchkey set who watch WB in Chicago are chilling with much more adult fare. WGN carries Maury at 3 PM followed by The Sharon Osbourne Show at 4.

Unfortunately, seedy talk shows and courtroom disputes seem to be very popular after school offerings. Surfing Seattle’s networks, I was treated to a buffet of conflict and confrontation.

Stopping first at KIRO, Seattle’s CBS affiliate, I discovered an all-court afternoon with Judge Joe Brown, Texas Justice, and Judge Judy running back-to-back. Dropping in on a little Texas Justice, I learned about the plight of a woman who felt her wedding dress wasn’t designed properly. The woman who created the dress spoke with a thick French accent, which the judge repeatedly mocked.

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Moving onto Seattle’s NBC affiliate KING-TV, Dr. Phil is into losing weight. Not exactly something kids will gravitate to, but at least no one is yelling… yet.

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KOMO, the ABC outlet offers a refreshing change with game shows… but only between 4 and 5 PM. News programming borders the hour on either side. Again, at least no one is bickering.

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The FOX channel wins for the some of the worst your kids can run into between the back door and the refrigerator. Today Maury Povich’s theme is “Tell your wife we had sex and you’re my baby’s daddy.” During the program, the host introduces couples to women their husband has fathered a baby with. The resulting confrontations are hardly fit for 3 AM let alone 3 PM. Aside from the very mature theme, so much of the language was bleeped that it was difficult to follow what little conversation remained. Like so many “talk” shows, Maury comes across as a scream-fest featuring extreme examples of society dropping their private affairs in front of the camera.

Those with cable or satellite connections are lucky enough to still have a few other options, thanks to family oriented channels like TV Land, Disney Channel or Discovery Kids. PAX-TV is often another good choice, but it appears to be stuck in the land of infomercials until about 5 PM.

Perhaps your best bet is to take up rocket science... in other words, dig out the instruction manual and learn how to program your VCR. With a two-dollar blank cassette, most machines can be put on a repeat record schedule. So if your family approved program only runs daily at 9AM, you can capture it on tape. Then, when your kids come home, they just hit rewind and have something decent to watch.

Of course, you may want to encourage some more traditional after school activities instead. Homework anyone?

Rod Gustafson

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About the Reviewer: Rod Gustafson

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