Learning TV's Real Educational Lessons From Mostly Fictional Content

I've learned everything I need to know in life by watching -- in no particular order -- "The Honeymooners," "F Troop," "Seinfeld," "West Wing" and the Tour de France.

Just in time for the digital age comes another "educational" TV moment --  this time, curiously, from those fine creative minds of ABC's engrossing,  sometimes frustrating, series, "Lost."

They've created "Lost University," a faux online university, where professors of USC and UCLA, offer up real-life answers or theories when it comes to the fictional TV show's more pressing questions surrounding physics, philosophy, and all that pseudo-mythology fans lean on. 

For example, Sean Carroll, a Caltech professor, teaches an introduction to physics of time Travel.

"Lost University" is a marketing tool from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment group. In the past, real-life colleges have had courses on all kinds of TV shows with the intent of eliciting what those characters and storylines mean for the culture at large.



Here are some current real offerings: Rochester Institute of Technology's "Introduction to Cultural Studies: "The Simpsons"; Georgetown University's "Philosophy and ‘Star Trek'"; CUNY's Brooklyn College's "South Park and Political Correctness"; University of Washington's "Management Lessons from ‘The Apprentice'"; and Oberlin College's "Chosen: ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.'"

Using TV shows as marketing tools, which equates to teasing students about real-life questions, can glam up sometimes-boring educational themes. I'm all for that.

But we shouldn't take things too far. "Lost" is still a TV show, not a lesson in quantum physics.  "It's a great medium, because you don't want a TV show to become didactic," Caltech professor Sean Carroll, told the Los Angeles Times.

He goes on to say: "It's the perfect marriage of entertainment and education." Well, not perfect. Confusion still reigns in TV. There are always many more questions then answers to most scientifically tinged entertainment writing. Just ask some former fans of "Heroes."

There are plenty of courses to consider in Lost University: "HIS 101: Ancient Writing on the Wall," "PHI 101: I'm Lost, Therefore I am," "PHY Seminar: New Physics with Jeremy Davies"; and "SCI 201: Jungle Survival Basics."

"Lost" students are required to do homework and exams. Those with staying power receive a diploma at the end.

Strangely, there is no course called "Writing 201: How to finish a long TV series, tie up loose ends, and give viewers a big splashy finish."


1 comment about "Learning TV's Real Educational Lessons From Mostly Fictional Content ".
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  1. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, December 14, 2009 at 10:19 a.m.

    Our media company has a simple litmus test to determine how far to take a business dialogue. If the party with whom we're speaking hasn't heard of Sal Mineo or F-Troop, we move on.

    BTW, you should add Amos 'N Andy and The Three Stooges to your list.

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