October 1997
s m u g
by leslie harpold

No Film at 11

Over the course of the last two years I have stopped watching television at home. I live in Manhattan, and to get decent reception, even on network stations, you need to have cable. Generally, I had cable, and then, when summer came, I would disconnect it. Being a winter person, summer is the time I'm more tempted to stay indoors in air-conditioned comfort and not really do anything, and television has a trance-like effect on me. I'd sit down to watch one show and end up watching for three or four hours, not really being satisfied, just hoping that I would find something that would give me a little satisfaction.

I wish that was just me, but it seems that's a common occurrence among TV watchers. You watch and hope it gets better.

TV's permeation into culture is so deep that even without having watched television in my home in two years, I have favorite TV shows. I know when they're on and what channels show them, so if I'm in the right place at the right time, I can make a play to catch up with the things that entertain me. One of them is Comedy Central's animated comedy, Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist, and I'm a little ashamed to admit I know when it's on 6 days a week.

Before I stopped watching, or before I "Untubed the tube" as a friend calls it, I was far less aware of how much conversation, common references and general bonding with near strangers like co-workers and bank tellers was based on a common televised reference point. These days, when someone says "That's like on Drew Carey - you know, the guy with the thing and he says that funny line all the time," I have to say no. Once I unplugged, it seemed to take a mere six months before I was totally out of the loop.

Suddenly common references were lost as new shows premiered, Melrose characters died or moved away, and sitcom families had new babies, as they frequently do. It's not just the fluffy stuff either. I haven't seen Nova, POV, Biography, or the evening news in quite a while. I will say my perspective on world events has shifted dramatically, and I find myself further away from popular opinion now that I'm getting my news stories solely in print and without the benefit of emotion-invoking background music or the inflection of TV anchors.

I won't be one of those people who remembers where she was when she learned of Princess Diana's death, and, frankly, I wasn't terribly moved by it. I'm sorry some children lost their mom, but I didn't weep with the nation. But I was moved to tears when I heard that Burroughs had died because I was processing the news through my own filter, not the filter of popular opinion.

My attention span is longer, my patience is greater, and my house is cleaner. I get more done. I've lost the ability to sit through bad television. As a guest in someone's home, I've noticed that many leave the TV on for background noise. It now irritates the bejeezus out of me, and I've had to ask to turn it off. I do not find the ABC disembodied head posters amusing, because I haven't seen the TV campaign that supports them. I notice now just how much louder ads are than programs.

Still, there are times when I miss it. The other day I was sick and fevery, and I could have been convinced to sit through an episode of anything, even Blossom. Instead, I updated my homepage, which I assure you was truly a disturbing thing. The net seems to have replaced television for me, and that's just a different kind of creepy.

I'm giving it six more months. Then I'm calling the cable guy. Hopefully the impatience with television, the jaundiced eye with which I view it will stick and I'll retain the ability to turn it on, watch something, then turn it right back off and get on with my day. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I've built up some sort of immunity which won't be worn down by constant exposure to the virus. I'll keep you posted.




in the junk drawer:

September 1997
August 1997
July 1997
June 1997
May 1997
April 1997
March 1997
February 1997
January 1997

and such
and such

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