Time Essay: The Politics of the Box Populi

Time Essay

No one has ever decided what television is really supposed to be for. Is the wondrous box meant to entertain? To elevate? To instruct? To anesthetize? The medium, in its sheer unknowable possibilities, seems to arouse extreme reactions: contempt for its banal condition as the ghetto of the sitcom, or else grandiose metaphysical ambitions for a global village. The tube is Caliban and Prospero, cretin and magician. "What makes television so frightening," writes Critic Jeff Greenfield, "is that it performs all the functions that used to be scattered among different sources...

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