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.

  • Share
  • Read Later

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.