Simon Vozick-Levinson
August 01, 2007 AT 12:00 PM EDT

Today’s New York Times report on television-watching habits in Afghanistan is a fascinating read. It turns out that TV, banned during the Taliban years, has since emerged as a major cultural force there; despite the myriad problems facing the war-torn nation, huge audiences tune in every night to watch their favorite shows. In our country, where the tube is constantly accused of rotting kids’ brains and coarsening society, it’s refreshing to read a story where rising TV viewership is recognized as a largely positive development.

So what does your average Kabul couch potato like to watch? A lot of lame-sounding soap operas, mainly — but Afghan TV evidently offers almost as many options as we’re used to over here. The article mentions cooking shows, reality makeover shows, crime shows, quiz shows, music video shows, and call-in shows, among others. They’ve even got a hit singing competition called Afghan Star — their very own Idol! (In a droll moment, the show’s host tells the Times he’s never heard of Ryan Seacrest. Can it be?) And the leading station is getting ready to start rebroadcasting original American episodes of 24. Surely, The Sopranos can’t be far off. Anyone else find it as heartening as me to know that at least TV is doing all right in a nation facing such serious strife?

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