Couch Potato: TV zooms in on health of planet and children

Wildfires raging across The Land of Milk and Honey have not only prompted an exodus from more than 500,000 California homes and killed at least two, but are, sadly, the perfect backdrop for CNN’s broadcast environmental investigation Planet in Peril. The 24-hour news network spent the better part of the news day Tuesday monitoring the blazes from every conceivable angle as it geared up to debut its first program shot in high definition, which seems tragically appropriate, given its subject matter.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper leads the inquiry into the state of our world and is joined by fellow anchor Sanjay Gupta and Animal Planet’s Jeff Corwin. The correspondents travel to all corners of the globe to evaluate environmental change in terms of climate change, vanishing natural habitats, disappearing species and human overpopulation.

"We wanted to take a look at all of the world’s environmental problems in one big swipe," Executive Producer Charlie Moore said, "and we wanted to avoid the clinical, classroom approach by going to the front lines of the stories."

CNN’s two-night event concludes tonight at 8 pm.

Think of the children

We can probably all agree that some programs are not for kids. The great television schism only begins to show itself when the debate turns to settling on the best manner in which to avert those innocent eyes. Some would place the responsibility solely in the hands of the parents, others would expect the media to self-censor, while others still would probably eradicate television altogether. On Wednesday, the foundation for a better tomorrow was laid.

Smart Television Alliance, a group hell-bent on "highlighting the good," boasts a membership that is pieced together from the likes of The National Council of Women’s Organizations, the National PTA, the National Education Association and the Parents’ Choice Foundation.

The Alliance flips the paradigm of your everyday gung-ho watchdog faction by actually advocating the occasional field trip to TV Land. Their vision of television is more in line with what it was originally imagined to be used for in the first place: a medium of education. Instead of relying solely on the V-Chip to control the remote, STA wants parents to talk to their children, become more involved in what they are watching and gear their tastes toward more bookish programs.

TiVo is even there to help as the firm and the coalition have joined forces to help educate parents about programming and help them plan accordingly. Ultimately, the goal is to bolster the demand for more wholesome programs so the mission becomes that much more attainable.

Regulating TV consumption for children is all well and good, but it won’t have the same impact on children who would rather control the action they see on their sets. Luckily, Microsoft announced on Tuesday that it will make more than 100 episodes of kid-friendly programs ready to download on Xbox Live. For $1.50 or $1.75 per episode (standard definition and high definition prices, respectively), your child can enjoy the company of Bugs Bunny, Blue of Blue’s Clues or iCarly, who debuted to Nickelodeon viewers on Sept. 8.

It’s funny how this family-friendly stunt happens to transpire just before Christmas prepares to takes over the nation, but let’s not allow that to spoil a good thing. Just go along with it.

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