TV Makes You Smarter! Really!
The former is the thesis of an article in the New York Times magazine. The basic idea is that TV is more complex today than ever, and this makes people smarter.
I'm not convinced. This idea strikes me about the same as the internet "big thinkers" who claimed information is power. I don't think information is power. Knowledge is closer to power. And using knowledge smartly is even closer. Of course, having nuclear bombs and showing little fear of the consequences of using them might be the real power.
I don't think just because people watch a particular show or set of shows they're getting smarter. That's similar to sitting in front of books by Albert Einstein or other "genius"es. Just having them doesn't do anything for the sitter.
I think that regardless of what people watch, it's how they process the stimulae on screen that will smarten them up. Talking about television, writing about television, having a dialogue, trying to assimilate the information into already conceived notions about the particulars and the world in general should do more to make you smart.
If there's one thing that watching television is likely to do for the viewer, it is making the viewer smarter about watching television. Not that they can necessarily dissect it better, but have a better understanding of the structure (content, commercial, content, commercial, newsbreak, etc), and possibly of the kinds of stories they can expect.