I used to think very little of TV watching. And there were quite a few years of my life during which I did not own a TV and then more years yet when I owned a TV but did not have any TV service (we just watched VHS tapes) and more years yet when the only TV watched was snowy "free" TV using "rabbit ears" that had to be positioned just so to get any picture at all. This was not because technology hadn't advanced. This was because I thought TV watching was something I didn't want in my life at all.
But, like many things, my opinions have mellowed as I got older. I came to see that TV, particularly local stations, in some weird way provide some unity to a community. They are a common thread that a broad spectrum of the population are exposed to and experience. The same can be said for TV programs that are shared with others. I enjoy watching TV with my husband and following particular TV programs each week. TV is much less enjoyable to me when I am alone. If it's not a really good story, I'd rather be reading a book or doing another activity.
Over the past year son #3 has given me the gift of TV. Now, there are few activities that a mother can share with her grown son. Even hiking, which we both enjoy, is difficult to share. He is young and strong and not only prefers more challenging hikes than I can't handle, but hikes at a pace that is just about impossible for me to keep up with. But, TV viewing does not discriminate. As long as you can see and hear and still have your wits about you enough to follow a story line, you can enjoy TV. Unlike the theater or movies you don't have to travel to get there since basically, it comes to you. Son #3 and I found a few series that we could enjoy together. Thanks to Netflix we could start with the beginning of the first year and work our way forward. When I know he is coming home for a week or so I try to have the next DVD ready to go. Our favorite series at present is Dexter. It's an oddly intriguing series about a sort of vigilante serial killer. Sometimes we would find ourselves talking about the plot line and suggesting ways that we thought it would progress. Even though it is a passive activity, it is a shared activity. For a short time our experience was shared. A small part of our life was the same.
So, while I think TV can be overdone, I think it can also provide a shared experience for people - family or community - to unite around. And like so many other aspects of life (think diet), there is a balance to TV viewing, an amount that enhances life without overtaking life.
And so we circle back to balance.