Urban Thought Collective
Blog Debut!

“Sit down in front of your television… you will observe a vast wasteland.”

That’s what Newton Minnow, the former chairman of the FCC, said in his famous 1961 speech to the National Association of Broadcasters. If you’ve never heard of Newton Minnow or the speech, and you’re interested in reading an intellectual beat down on television as a medium, please Google it now. If you don’t have the time or desire to do that and instead, want to trust me, (and I want you to), allow me to summarize and paraphrase what he said. Television stinks! It’s mean, violent, sexist, racist, bad for our children, overrun with gangsters and thugs, game shows, cartoons, commercials and just plain offensive. Worst of all, BORING!

However, he also said when television is at its best, “nothing is better.”

That was forty seven years ago! Well before we had twenty four hour news stations, tabloid magazines shows, reality TV, hundreds of talk shows with talking heads screaming at each other, infomercials, music videos, or “The Flavor of Love!” Yes, “The Flavor of Love” must be in its own category. I’m going to have to go all Obama here and condemn the show without condemning the man. Flava has a job and is making money. I’m happy for ALL brothers and sisters with a job and making loot! But we’ve had floods, fires, earthquakes and all I need to see now are locusts, because “Flavor of Love” is a sign the world is coming to an end!

Seriously now, I’ll admit to not wanting to watch because I was afraid of what I might see. Then, lucky me tuned in for the first time to watch some sister squat down in a dress, in the middle of someone’s house, in front of a group of people AND television cameras, and DEFECATE ON THE FLOOR! It confirmed my worst fears, no wait, EXCEEDED my worst fears, and I haven’t looked again. My heart can’t take it!

But, that’s not what I want to focus on. Honestly, it is easy to sit back and be critical. I will not turn a blind eye or refrain from criticism, but I want to highlight what’s great about television. I want to shine a light on shows I think more people should watch. Because, I agree, when television is at its best, there is nothing better.

Right now, “Grey’s Anatomy,” “House,” “Boston Legal,” “The Amazing Race,” “Survivor,” “Inside the NBA,” “Real Sports,” “Costas Now,” “Pardon the Interruption,” “Around the Horn,” “60 Minutes,” “Chuck,” “American Idol,” “Law and Order,” “Law and Order SVU,” “Heroes,” and a few others are among the best television has to offer.

I must confess that there are several shows that are terrific, but I don’t get to watch them regularly. That’s hard to believe considering my Tivo is usually recording two shows most of the time on two different sets. That list includes “The Shield,” “Ugly Betty,” “The L Word,” “Dexter,” “Smallville,” “Two and a Half Men,” and “Supernatural” to name a few.

In the interest of full disclosure, there are shows that I watch but will probably not recommend to everyone. I say probably because…well…it’s my blog, and I’m making up the rules and they may change. (Not without good reason or an explanation of course) For instance, I love “High Stakes Poker” and “Golf Central.” But, I see those as specialty shows. Their goals are to cater to a narrow section of the viewing public. I want to highlight shows that seek to cast a wide net, and acknowledge people behind and in front of the camera who are adhering to the highest standard of excellence established in our industry, or seeking to raise the bar.

Finally, I want to make it clear that my recommendations will be based SOLELY on excellence. However, excellence is relative when it is exclusionary. For example, I view Babe Ruth’s title as the greatest homerun hitter as relative, considering Josh Gibson and other players of color were excluded from competition. In 2008, the lack of diversity in primetime television is repugnant! Twenty four years after “The Cosby Show” premiered and went on to make television and entertainment history, primetime television is absent any evidence or small sign that it is interested in or willing to provide that kind of opportunity or platform for people of color. Yet, I’m confident that will change so long as the many talented people who work in television continue to fight for it. And, as long as we viewers DEMAND it. But, that is a whole topic unto itself and I’ll save that for another day.

This week, David Cook will win “American Idol,” (oh how I will miss Syesha), “Grey’s Anatomy” has it’s season finale, and I can’t wait to hear all the sports gurus explain how KG and the Celtics are in trouble even though they have yet to lose a series!

Let me get my remote!

Darryl Bell is an actor and Chicago native, best known for his role in classic TV series “A Different World” and Spike Lee’s “School Daze.” His unique television commentary is exclusive to Urban Thought Collecti