Our goal at the start was to keep our son away from TV for the first 2 years. He just turned 2, and we have no plans to introduce TV anytime soon, though we do get on the internet with him occasionally. Like today he asked me if he could see the "choo-choo cars" and I searched google for steam engine videos, most of which were about 1 minute long, and we watched a few of those.
Overall, my main issue with TV, as others have so well stated, is that it's commercial advertising. I don't want soulless corporations having direct access to my son. So, like others, we avoid character toys and try to focus instead on imaginative, creative play. We've read studies that show that even educational programming on PBS is shown to make children more receptive to commercial advertising (commercial jingles, etc.) and that watching television can be harmful to brain development in certain ways. What I know, is that the few times I've let Kai watch TV, it feels wrong to me. He seems to lose his spark and get too sucked in, and my instincts kick in and tell me he's too young to process that stimulus in a way that's healthy and balanced. I think it's important to tune into him and trust what feels right, and mistrust what feels wrong.
Kai likes to read a lot and will spend lots of time with books. We go to the library a lot and when he wants to just sit back and relax, he'll bring a book and snuggle up and not try to get involved with the reading. He has different reading moods, and we follow his lead.
Admittedly, not having the TV to babysit him, really makes it tougher for me to cook in the kitchen or take important phone calls. Some days I feel frazzled and frustrated like I'm swimming through tar, but most days we find a rhythm and it's very doable.
I'd love to find other parents in Portland that are thoughtful about monitoring the effects of media on their kids, and limiting TV.