Friday, January 25, 2013

COLUMN: TV Lessons

It's no secret that I'm a media junkie.

Clearly, I spend my workdays embedded in the world of print media. I spend my weekends moonlighting in dance clubs, bathing in a sea of music media. I'm never in my car without an iPod and radio stations both terrestrial and satellite. My smartphone is always in my pocket and I am never more than 10 seconds away from the internet.

I Facebook, I tweet, I blog. I am LinkedIn, Soundclouded, and Kindled. Other than the six or seven hours that I'm forced to sleep every night (a process I prefer to think of as "recharging my internal receiver,") I am a non-stop media sponge.

But more than any other medium, I am hopelessly addicted to television. When I get home from work, I usually pick up the remote control before I take my coat off. No matter what I do when I get home, no matter what room I'm in, the television stays on. If I'm making food, there's a TV on. If I'm doing laundry, there's a TV on. Most nights, I'm recording one show while watching another. I can't fall asleep unless the warm glow of a hi-def screen is somewhere in the background. As I type this, Pat Sajak and Vanna White are flipping letters on the TV I can barely see with my peripheral vision. I'm typing in a window that's minimized to 30% of my laptop screen while Adrian Monk is busily solving a murder via Netflix on the other 70%.

These days, television is my best friend and truest love -- and not a cheap date, either. Lo def, hi def, HBO, Showtime, Hulu, Netflix, DVDs, DVRs, pay-per-view... I'm starting to think heroin might be a more fiscally responsible habit. But heroin doesn't have 150+ channels, Jon Stewart, MTV Hits, or "Dawson's Creek" reruns at the push of a button.

But I've started to notice an alarming trend lately. A lot of my former pretentious friends from college are now pretentious adults, raising an entirely new generation of pretentious offspring. And a good number of these friends keep taking to Facebook to brag about what great parents they've become... because they've rid their homes of television altogether.

Clearly, these people are crazy and need my help.

It's the same argument over and over again: Television is the boob tube, and watching it on a regular basis turns your brain into mush -- which, of course, would put MY brain at the consistency of figgy pudding at this point. Their solution? Some sort of inhuman bastardized Zen New Age-y way of tortuous life: getting rid of television altogether. This, it is argued, leads to a bigger wallet, a stronger family, and children who are free from the bombardments of mass media and thus brimming with intelligence, creativity, and a passion for life.

To which I say: Let's see how far life's passion gets them when they enter 1st grade and discover they're the only kids in their school who don't know what a "Spongebob" is.  

Look, television isn't the great evil, unless you're feeding your children a diet of "Two and a Half Men" and Honey Boo-Boo. Sure, there's a lot of junk on TV, but there's also a lot of great programs that can feed the mind and ensnare the senses. Take it from me, someone who keeps Netflix on his cell phone (you know, in case of emergencies.) TV can be a great educational tool. I've learned many universal truths from my boob tube -- things my parents never bothered to tell me about. For instance:

• DON'T TRUST ANYONE. I've been watching a lot of "Monk" reruns lately, and it's clued me into something very valuable. Nearly every episode starts the same way: Two perfectly normal people are hanging out together, having fun... and then WHAM! One of them murders the other like it's no big whoop. Murderers come in all shapes and sizes. Terrorists, too, which we all know from "Homeland" and "24." You're never safe.

• WEIRD NOISES INSIDE YOUR HOME are not to be dismissed as the house settling. Or your HVAC system. Or your cat. For I watch TV, and I know that when my house creaks, it's clearly the spirit of my long-lost Uncle Hank trying to communicate with me ("Ghost Hunters") or perhaps trying to attack me ("Paranormal State") or maybe he just wants his watch back ("Haunted Collector.")

• WEIRD NOISES OUTSIDE YOUR HOME are not to be dismissed as neighbors. Or a car backfiring. Or your cat again. There's only one explanation: you have a Sasquatch infestation. "Finding Bigfoot" tells us that 'Squatches are real, numerous, enjoy loud music, apparantly hate cameras, and most importantly, have mating calls that sound exactly like chubby rednecks wandering through the woods on a goose chase.

• VAMPIRES ARE TERRIFYING. Unless, of course, you're a spunky waitress and/or a sullen teenage girl with little to no personality. In that case, the vampires will fall in love with you. Anyone else needs to keep a stock of silver ("True Blood") or vervain ("The Vampire Diaries") or at least have a cute friend named Buffy handy at all times.

• FOOD IS OVERRATED. Time and again, I have watched both Top Chefs and Master Chefs create appetizing dishes that make professional conoisseurs like Gordon Ramsey retch. Clearly, they're trying too hard, especially when all you need to do is watch "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" to discover that the greatest food on Earth is s'ketti 'n' butter.

• IF YOU'RE EVER CHEATING ON YOUR WIFE with another man's wife and the husband comes home, DO NOT HIDE IN THE CLOSET. You might be fine. But maybe your cell phone will ring and the husband will open the closet and confront you but it's okay because he's actually gay and his boyfriend shows up and you call home but a man answers so you race home but get a speeding ticket and your wife explains that the man was Twan who's out of jail but really it was the police officer and then you pull your gun and accidentally shoot Twan and Rosie the neighbor comes over and before long your house is full of pimps and little people. I saw it on IFC. Don't get "Trapped In The Closet."

• THIS SHOULD WHET YOUR APPETITE is totally the answer to this puzzle on "Wheel of Fortune."  WHY aren't they getting it?  What's wrong with these people?  Argh, that's it.  I give up.  Need to change the channel.

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