Tuned In

Programming Note: Plus, What TV Do You Travel With?

I used to mock parents who used DVDs to quiet their kids in the car. Now I appreciate digital distractions like the 19th-century pioneers appreciated laudanum.

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I’m going to be away for the next week–away from work, from Brooklyn, and, mostly, from Tuned Inland. Through the magic of the Internet and advance screeners, however, I’ll have a review of Sunday’s Breaking Bad in this space after it airs. (I’ll be getting back too late to review the following week’s episode, though.)

Because you didn’t ask, I’m going to be driving from New York to Michigan, a eleven-hours-each-way trip we make a couple times a year. Because this trip involves transporting two kids across country, the invention of the portable DVD player has been indispensable. Much earlier in my career, I wrote an article for Fortune mocking a new minivan that came with a video-and-video-game player installed: “one automaker has finally stepped forward to rid us of that eternal scourge, quality time with the kids amid the beauty of nature.”

I was young, childless, and foolish then. I can now appreciate the child-hypnotizing powers of the car DVD player–and the iPod and iPad–just as, I assume, parents journeying across the prairie in Conestoga wagons with their children in the 1800s appreciated laudanum. The ability of a glowing rectangle of video to make a long time pass quickly is the car-trip equivalent of cryogenically freezing astronauts for a decades-long trip into deep space. Until Elon Musk invents a Hyperloop connecting Brooklyn to the Midwest, this state of electronic suspended animation will have to do.

Of course, being a TV critic, I try to use our trips for TV-historical purposes. On past road trips, I’ve introduced the kids to The Flintstones and the Looney Tunes back catalog; this year, the kids they’ll get exposed to the wonders of The Simpsons’ season five, and, possibly, introduced to King of the Hill.

With the summer ending and Labor Day coming up, I’m guessing many of you in Tuned Inland have road trips coming up, parents or not, so here’s a discussion question while I go: what electronic pacifiers do you bring with you on the road? Do you set limits, or is it digital binge time? Do you try to bring DVDs you can deceive yourself into believing are “educational”?

And does anybody out there still rely on License Plate Bingo and “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” instead? See you all week after next.


Classic James. You're mocking tone in that 1998 article is priceless. Like most things in life it's all about balance. Nothing wrong with a little TV on a long road trip, especially when you expose them to the classics. Be sure to add Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on Nick to the list. It's an instant classic.

anon76 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Just finished a 7 hour drive today.  Early we were relying on (non-laudinum-induced) sleep, then some I spy & toys, and finally Thomas the Train on the DVD player and whatever games could be played on the iPad without WiFi.  Natural beauty of Montana be damned, we used the electronic sedative as well.


I have been a TV on DVD Reviewer for five years; my all-time favorite set is the "Get Smart" complete series box set; I alos like the new "Dobie Gillis" complete series set; here are my thoughts generally regarding what to watch

simcasticdesigns like.author.displayName 1 Like

The alphabet game (finding letters on signs in alphabetical order, no using the same word twice for two letters) is still the mainstay for us, but we had a portable DVD player for our son when he was much younger to keep him soothed, and now the Ipad/Ipod will keep him for short bursts.  We only let those go on for so long, before he has to switch back to spending time talking to us, or reading a book. :-)

TheHoobie like.author.displayName 1 Like

Oh, it's so reassuring that you guys aren't above using electronic narcotics during long car rides! We recently had a week-long family vacation (our first real one!) with my sisters- and brothers-in-law and all the kids' cousins, bankrolled by my awesome mother-in-law, in fabulous French Lick* and West Baden Springs, Ind. Getting there and back involved a 5 1/2 hour car ride each way, so, yes, the iPad made its rounds among the three kids in the back seats (in between naps, games of "I Spy," and the entire family's complete, awed fascination with the giant wind farm near I-65). And I hate to say it, but while we were there, the iPad (and Aunt Jamie's iPhone) were helpful in soothing happy but overtired and overstimulated kids for a half-hour or so after dinner. We haven't done the thing where we have them watch a certain TV show on the iPad, though; the younger kids mainly watched the same episodes of Blue's Clues ad infinitum, and the older kid mostly played games....

Anyway, happy vacation to you and Mrs. TI and the TI Jrs.!

*I mean that sincerely! French Lick and West Baden Springs were awesome. Turn-of-the-20th-century resort towns with beautiful Beaux-Arts hotels built around laxative- and lithium-containing mineral springs? Yes, please! And remember, "When Nature won't, Pluto will!" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pluto_Water

anon76 like.author.displayName 1 Like


I'm only familiar with (nested reference) "Serutan spelled backwards is mud".