At its core, TV is entertainment. It’s meant to take you away from the world every week. TV is great because it brings us laughs, thrills, excitement and emotions that couldn’t come from anywhere else. But most people see TV just as entertainment, with little to no value in the real world. TV can’t really do anything about important issues that exist in reality, right? Well, there is now growing support for the notion that TV can actually change our world for the better.
Take John Oliver’s fantastic show Last Week Tonight, for example. After releasing a 13 minute segment on Net Neutrality, the show was responsible for breaking the FCC website because of an overload of comments from the public. Dubbed “The John Oliver Effect”, the show has increased awareness and inspired action on issues in the real world through Television. The show is as entertaining as anything on TV, but it’s also helping to make the world a better place, one joke at a time. (Read more about that show’s impact on the world in an amazing TIME article Here)
This effect isn’t limited to talk shows and political programs either, the CSI franchise has exponentially increased public interest in the forensic sciences, and, according to the creator, is actually responsible for real police divisions using the term Crime Scene Investigators. Meanwhile, a pretty significant amount of people have named their children Khaleesi after the character from Game Of Thrones.
“That’s cool and all I guess, but why are you talking about all this?” Well, my dear impatient, inquisitive, reader, I’ll tell you:
On Thursday, I was invited to attend the launch of a competition dubbed “The Next MacGyver” at the National Academy Of Engineering in Washington DC. There, they announced a project that attempts to harness the influence I’ve been describing, and use it to change the world.
For those of you in my generation, who have no idea what MacGyver is, here’s a quick description: MacGyver is a TV Show that originally aired from 1985 to 1992 that centered around a secret agent who used his engineering skills to get out of seemingly impossible situations. The creator of the show, Lee Zlotoff (Pictured Left), said MacGyver had a large influence in the engineering fields. “I literally could not tell you how many times people have come up to me and said, ‘I became an engineer, or I went into the sciences because of MacGyver.’” he remarked during the press conference.
The worldwide competition aims to bring use this kind of influence to help inspire more women to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields, specifically engineering. They believe if the next great TV hero is a female engineer, then an entire generation of girls may grow up idolizing that character, in turn becoming the next great generation of engineers and leaders in the technology field
What’s the show gonna be about? Well, we don’t know yet. The story can come from anyone, that’s the competition part. They are currently accepting ideas for the show, and will do so until April 17th on their website (which is conveniently linked for you at the end of this post). The winners will receive cash prizes, a mentor to help them develop a script and sell it to a network and best of all, their name listed as the creator of a TV show. Okay, maybe the creator thing is mostly awesome to me, but still that would be super cool. But right now, my best idea is basically Scandal meets Gravity and stars Kristen Wiig and Bill Murray, so until I come up with something feasible, it’s definitely anyone’s game to win!
Yes, of course TV is entertainment.
At the core, the medium is there to take us away from the world, and engross the audience in stories and journeys that we couldn’t enjoy anywhere else. That’s why we watch, but television can also be something more, something beyond entertainment. As a cultural unifier, TV can bring together people from very different backgrounds and lifestyles. Television is one of the few things in this world that has the ability to influence and change not only our country, but the world as a whole. That’s the opportunity they’re talking about here, an opportunity to use this amazing platform to make the world a better place to live in, while also making some good old fashioned entertainment.
That’s what The Next MacGyver is aiming to do, and I think that’s pretty cool.
To Enter The Competition Go Here,
Thank you to everyone that helped get me to DC to cover this event. Especially to my Mom, who bought me a plane ticket. And my Aunt, who drove out of her way to get me to and from the airport, and somehow made homemade chocolate chip cookies in the process.
Also Thank You to my professor who allowed me to miss class without penalty, it was greatly appreciated!