Our two-year-old grandson is here. We Tivo’d some episodes of his favorite show, “Thomas and His Friends.” Thomas is a train engine, and his friends are other kinds of heavy machinery and the people who tend them. The “Thomas” franchise started as a series of books by an English pastor, Reverend W. Awdry, and, subsequently became a TV show, line of toys, and all kinds of other merchandise. They are all wholesome and charming.

The British-narrated TV shows have been dubbed into an American accent–which is not necessary and should not be done!–and the voices for some strange reason are those of Alec Baldwin and George Carlin. At any rate, the children’s network Sprout shows the things all the time. The day before yesterday, the episode was entitled something like “Thomas’s Christmas Journey.” But even though the title said “Christmas,” the Carlin voice-over substituted throughout the script “Thanksgiving”! So we had Thomas chugging through the snow in “November” trying to bring the Thanksgiving packages to all the boys and girls.

Changing “Christmas” to “Thanksgiving” didn’t even make sense! And the title lettering still said “Christmas”! But such is today’s Christmas-phobia. (I was told that another American-translated Christmas episode the next day DID say “Christmas.”)

But, hey, what should we expect? Everything about Christmas DOES proclaim Christ. Santa Claus was an author of the Nicene Creed. Giving gifts symbolize the Gospel. The Christmas tree symbolizes the Tree of Life. So those who don’t believe in Christ should indeed feel uncomfortable about celebrating or even mentioning Christmas. I don’t understand why non-Christians would so much as observe the day.

And yet they do, giving and receiving gifts and glorifying God despite themselves.

The Colbert religion

Arch-satirist Stephen Colbert turns out to be a practicing, mostly-believing Catholic, as this blog chronicles:

In an interview with Time Out Magazine, he responded to a question about This Week in God: “How do you square your Catholicism with comedy?”

I love my Church, and I’m a Catholic who was raised by intellectuals, who were very devout. I was raised to believe that you could question the Church and still be a Catholic. What is worthy of satire is the misuse of religion for destructive or political gains. That’s totally different from the Word, the blood, the body and the Christ. His kingdom is not of this earth. . . .

And this from the oft-cited NPR Fresh Air interview:

This Week in God is–you know, This Week in God is, for me, a tightrope, because I–while I’m, you know, not a particularly religious person, I do go to church, which makes me kind of odd for my profession. You know, most people can’t understand why I do, other comedians. And I have to walk that thin line because I don’t want to criticize anyone’s religions for the fact that it is a religion, and what’s funny to me is what people do in the name of religion. …

We’re, you know, very devout and, you know, I still go to church and, you know, my children are being raised in the Catholic Church. And I was actually my daughters’ catechist last year for First Communion, which was a great opportunity to speak very simply and plainly about your faith without anybody saying, `Yeah, but do you believe that stuff?’ which happens a lot in what I do.

Salacious TV linked to teen pregnancy

In another scientific study of what would seem perfectly obvious, researchers have found a strong link between how much sex teenagers watch on TV and their likelihood of premarital pregnancy. From Sexual content on TV is linked to teen pregnancy:

The teens who watched the most sexual content on TV (the 90th percentile) were twice as likely to have become pregnant or caused a pregnancy compared to the teens who watched the least amount of sexual content on TV (the 10th percentile). Adolescents who lived in a two-parent household had a lower probability of pregnancy while African Americans and adolescents with behavior problems were more likely to be involved in a pregnancy.

Parents should consider limiting their teen’s exposure to sexual content on TV, said the study’s lead author, Anita Chandra, a behavioral scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. Television producers should consider more realistic depictions of the consequences of sex in their scripts, she says, noting that there is little content on the consequences of unprotected sex. About 1 million adolescents become pregnant each year in the United States.

“Adolescents receive a considerable amount of information about sex through television and that programming typically does not highlight the risks and responsibilities of sex,” said Chandra, in a news release. “Our findings suggest that television may play a significant role in the high rates of teenage pregnancy in the United States.”

Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live

It takes a lot of character to defy your critics by walking into their midst. A good way to handle mockery is to play along, fighting humor with humor. That’s what Sarah Palin did in appearing on “Saturday Night Live.” She acquitted herself well in some funny, though silly, sketches. Here they are:

For the words to the Sarah Palin rap–which are very, very funny–go here.

Working men as heroes

John Nolte hails a positive trend in television. Some of the most popular reality shows celebrate WORK. From The Return of the Working Class Hero:

We marvel at the men populating “Ice Road Truckers,” “The Deadliest Catch,” “Dirty Jobs,” and “American Chopper.” Men who cuss and smoke cigarettes and lose their tempers and get the job done. We marvel at the creativity that gets them through, and we marvel at those fascinating six minute segments taking us into the dit-dit of How It’s Made. We marvel enough that every new season brings another guy just doing what he does so well. This year it was exterminators. Like eating cotton candy or slowing to pick up the grisly details of a car crash, watching the fame-addicted humiliate themselves may well fascinate, but it doesn’t feel very good inside. But watching the people who take enormous pride in the difficult work they do makes this the healthiest television trend since Fox News upended the liberal media monopoly.

While the cultural divide grew as wide as flyover country between those who create television and those who watch it, we’ve seen the working class pretty much relegated to buffoonish sitcom husbands; balding, heavyset men, married to impossibly lovely wives who bubble with love but also deliver sharp zingers that manifest the contempt she (and the show’s creators) have for their mate’s humble station in life. Gone are the lunch bucket heroes. They’ve long been replaced by lawyers, doctors, perfectly tailored detectives, and Manhattan lofted friends.

But something good is happening on the higher-numbered channels where the nobility of hard work plays out in such a fascinating way that “The Deadliest Catch” has been “synergized” into a video game and a family of motorcycle builders are treated like movie stars by movie stars. Somewhere along the line, narcissism on parade took a back seat to the virtues of the men in flannel. Yes, it’s our dads, uncles, and neighbors.

I love those shows. Don’t you? Notice that they are celebrations of vocation!

Howdy Doody time

Perhaps one of you readers is as old as I am–that is to say, really, really old–so that you too could get a nostaligic buzz out of this memory of the Howdy Doody Show, an account of someone who actually got to sit in the Peanut Gallery. I’m telling you, THAT was children’s TV.