Does TV really rot our brains? Or is that just a catch-phrase moms use to keep kids from staring at the tube for hours? And if so, moms, I would argue that kids spend more hours staring at computer screens in this day and age.

glee-season-2-posterAt any rate, has released a list of eight fall TV shows that not only NOT rot our brains, but will actually expand our vocabulary. If we go down that road, the shows should make both us AND our kids smarter, right?

Ok, so not all of their choices are appropriate for kids – in fact, most of them are rated TV-14 (not suitable for kids younger than 14). I’ll include the FCC ratings, so we know what we’re dealing with.

See if you agree with their list, and feel free to add your own in the comments below. Right off the bat, I’d say we could add ‘The Big Bang Theory’ to this list. Lots of talk about amplifications, vortexes and quantum physics on that show.

1-‘Glee’ (TV-14, L, D) – You might not think a musical show falls into the vocab category, but consider some of Coach Sue Sylvester’s one-liners, like “I realize my cultural ascendance only serves to illuminate your own banality” and “Even your breath stinks of mediocrity.” So, yeah, I’ll agree with this choice.

2-‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’ (TV-14) – Sure, Stewart (and/or his writers) have a way with words, but he also gives airtime to academics who offer provocative prose on complex topics. I just checked the official Web site to see who the guests are this week: Jimmy Carter, Sigourney Weaver, and Edward Norton. I’m not sure that theory melds with these choices, but … ok, we’ll go with it for now.

fringe-season-3-poster3-‘Fringe’ (TV-14, V, L) – Having been a fan and reviewer of the show since it premiered in 2008, I’ll agree with this one. Check out the ‘Fringe’ wiki and you’ll see what I mean. It’s littered with such phrases as “celermitosis,” “spectrum exploitation,” “transmogrification,” and “post-mortem synaptic transfer.” Still time to jump on the ‘Fringe’ train; season three premieres Thurs., Sept. 23 at 9PM ET on Fox. Read my preview on TV Death Ray, and look for my reviews over there this season.

4-‘Top Chef’ (TV-14) – TV never sounded so tasty as on this Emmy-winning reality TV competition. My only problem with watching this show is that it makes me hungry – not only for fun foodie words, but also the real thing. I wonder if there’s any correlation between watching this show and gaining weight.

5-‘Sesame Street’ (TV-Y) – It’s amazing the words kids (and ok, adults, too) can pick up from watching Elmo, Big Bird and the rest of the gang. And if ‘Top Chef’ isn’t your thing, the Sesame Street gang even has their own Web cooking shows now, too.

6-‘Yo Gabba Gabba’ (TV-Y) – You don’t have to be Brad Pitt (who dressed up as one of the characters last Halloween) to know that this show is fun and kitschy, and offers some great tunes and life lessons.

7-‘True Blood’ (TV-MA) – If you had to look up what a maenad was last season, you’re not alone, my friend. HBO’s guilty vampire pleasure sneaks in lots of mythological, as well as medical, historical and political references. It’s too bad that twisted sex scene turned a few people away from the show. Uh, ok, it sort of turned me away from the show, too. It’s still on the DVR, though, so I’m sure I’ll watch it eventually.

8-‘Mad Men’ (TV-14) – Proper grammar, ad agency lingo, and 1960s-era references make this show a winner in the vocab department. Throw in Don Draper’s suavity (sure, it’s a word; look it up) and Joan Holloway’s curvy fashions, and it’s a virtual delight for the senses.

Ok, your turn. What vocab-friendly shows are missing from’s list? Got any favorites of your own?

Images: Fox


  1. I wish there were more shows on TV that make us smarter! I used to live in France where the culture show “Apostrophe” was one of the longest running in the history of TV there, and it was a talk show about books and culture. I regret that Bill Moyers is no longer on TV. His shows made me smarter. Of the list above, my vote goes for Mad Men. We are plunged back into a time when being smarter was seen as something positive … I love the way they show Draper THINKING up ideas. Very sexy in a man, if you ask me.

  2. So glad you posted these. I tend to stay away from TV a lot because some of the shows just plain annoy me. But anything that makes you think – that piques my interest!

  3. Funny that Jon Stewart is on this list. His is the only show that my husband and I watch (sporadically, on the Internet). I honestly don’t buy that TV makes you smarter… What was’s incentive for claiming this I wonder…?

  4. The sentence structure & vocab that comes out of Sue Sylvester’s mouth is so smart and wickedly funny — but it looks like she may meet her match in that department with the arrival of the Beast.


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