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Sucking the picture tube...


I'm starting to worry about my television watching habits.

I think I'm pretty responsible.

I don't watch The West Wing, even though I know it's a quality show. I've stayed away from Buffy, not because I don't think it's a show of the highest goods, but because I know beginning down that road would suck me in like a gaping vortex, forcing me to want to watch every episode they've done, and to be honest, my life can't sustain that kind of time-blow right now.

But still, ever since the Dish Network came into my home like an outwardly benign, yet secretly menacing guest, and ever since I gained among my superpowers TiVo-like recording capabilities, I now find the list of shows I watch increasing as I find ways not to miss them.

In the last week, I watched:

Smallville (several times, for the purposes of recapping)
Curb Your Enthusiasm
The Simpsons (about five episodes in reruns, the Halloween special and Sunday's premiere)
King of the Hill (twice because it was really funny)
Gilmore Girls
Band of Brothers
Home Movies (two episodes)
Space Ghost Coast to Coast
The Brak Show
Sealab 2021
Malcolm in the Middle
Saturday Night Live
(the one with Gwyneth Paltrow and the one with John Goodman.)
Everybody Loves Raymond (two episodes)
CNN when they were chasing that flaming lumber truck through Dallas. That ruled, by the way.

One of the few television programs I don't actually watch.

And folks? That's list is short because I missed the new Ab Fab (recording conflict -- I'm taping it when it repeats on Saturday), Friends (recording SNAFU), Survivor (I decided I don't like this season and stopped TiVo'ing) and shows that I would be watching if they were airing right now like Six Feet Under, Sex and the City and The Sopranos.

How many hours of TV is that? Like 30,000? How is that even remotely healthy?

When somebody tells me about a show that I should be watching right now, I just have to laugh bitterly because, honestly, how? I'm already cutting 24 and Band of Brothers from that list (Band of Brothers is over, but still...), but that still leaves, what, 29,998 hours a week to watch?

I like the digital recorder because you do zip through commercials and opening credits and you don't have to sort through tapes, so watching an episode of say, The Simpsons, takes all of 18 minutes. So you do watch a lot more in a shorter amount of time.

But I keep wondering if maybe I should be... hiking or something. Mountain climbing. Learning to tie interesting knots. Packing for my big move. Hitting the gym more than once a week. Sexing somebody up. Cleaning the kitty litter. Assessing my financial options at the bank. Knitting.

I can at least justify it a little tiny bit more than most people because I get paid for recapping, so I get to say "Yes, I get paid to watch and write about television." But that show only acounts for about 6 percent of my weekly TV watching. That's not a justification! I'm living a lie!

It doesn't even count movies I watched, which are not technically TV even if I watch them on the TV. Like Shrek or Blow or when I went to the movies to see Monsters Inc. and Shallow Hal. Or the videogames played in front of the TV. (Don't get me started on that list or we'll be here all day.)

I sit at a screen all day at work, come home and sit at either the home computer screen or the TV screen for much of the night until the wee hours.

And there are exceptions. I spent a huge chunk of the weekend out of the house and having fun. Last week I went to two concerts. There's a lot of non-TV watching time, when I really stop to think about it.

So how does all that programming get fit in? How is my brain still working as all that passive viewing turns my mind to mush?

Somehow the TV picture tube must be giving some sort of brainwave massage. It has to be feeding into my skull some sort of knowledge laxative, a gentle, soothing bit of programming Ex-Lax that drains me of my ability to resist the lure of prime time viewing.

It's okay. It feels good to be a zombie. You learn to quote Lorelei from Gilmore Girls and get annoyed at little things like Larry David from Curb Your Enthusiasm and you develop a high threshhold for postmodernist cartoon crudity from watching Adult Swim.

It's your world, all around you.

30,000 hours of TV viewing sure doesn't seem like to much. It's nice. The couch. It's so... comfy. And the snacks... so salty. But not as tasty as the brain, feeding on itself as it runs out of outside stimuli.

So good... the brain. Tasty, especially when microwaved and topped with popcorn salt and a little melted butter.


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