I want to reclaim the television, to take it back from the pedants, the posers and the perverts. Much of what appears on the box these days is junk food for the mind and body. And it's not just clogging our arteries; it's killing our souls -- and our culture.
TV is ripe for change.
I want to see good television. Programs I would happily sit and watch with family and friends. TV that would make me feel better about myself -- and our world.
I want to see shows like "Roads Less Traveled," in which host Natalie Kantor sets out to discover unconventional lifestyles around the world and the people who live them. "I'm leaving my old life behind," she says, "in the hopes of answering for myself the question we pose in this series, 'What is absolutely essential to live a happy, healthy and fulfilling life?'"
The series features eco-warriors, such as urban farmers and others whose every action and decision is weighed for its impact on the environment. People like David Masters, who gave up a lucrative career in finance to live in a yurt and launch an adventure tour company and a school for sustainable living.
And digital nomads, people who've found ways to work digitally from anywhere. Like Maneesh Sethi, who travels the world while running a business from his laptop. "Everything he owns fits into one knapsack," Jan Keck, the show's cinematographer and co-director (and unofficial series butt-kicker), told me.
Kantor, who is also the creator, producer and director of the series, says this is just the beginning, that her team hopes to draw this growing international community together, and that she realizes that the best way to do that is online. I asked Kantor and Keck how they find people to feature. "Every time we tell people about 'Roads Less Traveled,' they have a story about someone they know who's doing something amazing. So, the stories are finding us."
Connect with "Roads Less Traveled" through their site and on Facebook -- and if you feel inspired, you might like to pitch in. They're raising funds to complete the pilot episode through the fabulous IndieGoGo, a site that helps people fund their ideas.
Looking for other examples of thinking outside the box on the box?
"HIGHRISE/Out My Window"
So much of the great content is appearing online instead of on TV, like this brilliant series from the National Film Board of Canada. "HIGHRISE/Out My Window" just won an International Digital Emmy Award. Directed by filmmaker and digital media creator Katerina Cizek and produced by Gerry Flahive, "Out My Window" combines interactive 360-degree photography, video, text and music in 49 vignettes, chronicling life inside the most common urban structure of our age: the high-rise apartment block in 13 cities around the world.
Here's one that's being released theatrically, and which I sure would like to see on TV. Liz Canner takes a job editing erotic videos for a drug trial for a pharmaceutical company. Her employer is developing what they hope will be the first Viagra-like drug for women. Liz gains permission to film the company for her own documentary. Initially, she plans to create a movie about science and pleasure, but she soon begins to suspect that her employer, along with a cadre of other medical companies, might be trying to take advantage of women (and potentially endanger their health) in pursuit of billion-dollar profits. "Orgasm Inc." is powerful -- and hilarious.
"Love Hate Love"
We meet three families who faced the unthinkable and choose love. Their lives are torn apart by three separate acts of terrorism: the attacks on the World Trade Center, the London bus bombing and the Sari Club bombing in Bali. In "Love Hate Love," we're with them as they struggle to pick up the pieces, build legacies of loved ones lost, and make sure love triumphs over hatred. Sean Penn is executive producer, and Dana Nachman and Don Hardy direct. We need to see this kind of thing, which leads to social action, on TV!
"Chasing the Royals"
Obsessed with all things royal as the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton nears? A new documentary takes an uncompromising look at the love-hate relationship between the media and the monarchy. "Chasing the Royals: The Media and the Monarchy" aired on CBC Television's Doc Zone in March. "Chasing the Royals," which was written, directed, edited and produced by Gemini Award-wining filmmaker and journalist John Curtin, chronicles the frenzied, comical and often nasty relationship between the royals and the "rat pack" chasing them.
Let's talk TV. Have you found good (or "good") TV? And do you want to see more? What kinds of programs would make you feel great about our world -- and yourself? Please share what's out there!
The "Ripe" countdown has begun! My new book will be launched next Saturday. Watch for the first column about "Ripe: Rich, Rewarding Work After 50" -- a 12-week course on discovering passion, purpose and possibility at midlife.