I wouldn’t say television is a major part of my life, but let’s face it. Without TV, I wouldn’t have had much of a story in Tossed Off the Edge with Sheila’s many references to classic television. The truth is that I hate morning television, which caters to shallowness, and daytime TV—now that soap operas barely exist, sorely lacks in merit. I’d much prefer the fictional lives of well-dressed people worrying about the paternity of their children as opposed to the uncivilized shouting by people with too much exposed flesh waving around DNA tests. At least in soap operas the mothers could narrow down paternal candidates to a couple of men.
I’ve written before how I can’t stand contemporary news productions, so that leaves evening television. I don’t like reality shows unless they cover cooking and home improvement, but I’ll admit to watching a few episodes about an isolationist family in Alaska. I was curious and found something endearing about them, so shoot me. I balance that indulgence with PBS, which is a great resource though not everything is as educational as it is entertaining. I have never missed a single episode of Downton Abbey, but if there’s nothing interesting to me at other times, I turn it off and read. I make this disclaimer about TV to point out that I’m neither addicted nor am I ashamed to admit I watch.
There’s nothing wrong with watching TV. It’s one way in which Society keeps up with cultural references. Through this medium, we’re able to see history taking place live around the world and beyond the planet. Man’s first steps on the moon were televised, as have been celebrations and disasters alike.
I know a book devotee who never watches TV. She claims to have a very small one tucked in the closet somewhere for emergencies. How will she know when there’s an emergency if her programming hasn’t been interrupted by the Emergency Broadcasting Service, which I believe still tests periodically? I’m sure she’s one of the honest ones who truly don’t watch because nothing of contemporary culture registers with her. Tucked away in a world of serious books, she has deprived herself of the humor, emotion and beauty, which can be conveyed through performances that happen to be on TV. She truly believes there’s no merit to Television, and it’s been her loss.
I recently encountered another woman who insisted she didn’t watch TV. We were side by side for two or three hours over the course of several days, and she had no idea what I was talking about most of that time. In an effort to be humorous, I’d referenced an iconic scene from I Love Lucy. She claimed to be unfamiliar.
“I don’t watch TV.” Ever? “No.”
I cannot think of anyone as old as she and raised in the United States who hasn’t seen the candy-making episode. She was emphatic that her lack of tuning in was religious. It’s not like I Love Lucy was a bacchanalian romp in Prime Time. Mamie Eisenhower was First Lady, and Ricky and Lucy slept in twin beds! In pajamas, and with less skin showing than she at that moment! Then we got down to it: “I’m sure it’s family friendly, but I don’t have the luxury of time to sit and watch TV.”
This remark rather perturbed me because she assumed that I can’t pull myself away from the TV when her obvious ADHD is the real reason she can’t “sit and watch.” Hell, she couldn’t take two bites of her sandwich without jumping up in between them to check her Facebook status and remind her daughter about after-school cheer practice.
I can tell when someone truly doesn’t watch TV so I pried and I continued to pry until I uncovered enough information to sort her out. I learned that her early morning job requires her to be in bed before Prime Time viewing hours, and her afternoons are busy chauffeuring three kids.
She’s one of today’s viewers who don’t count streaming or watching something on a device other than an actual TV as watching TV. What they are seeing may not be on a TV screen, and it may not come from a network, but it’s still tele-vision. This anti-TV snob finally let it slip that while she didn’t have cable or satellite, she has a 60” TV and an active Netflix account, which streams like Glory from Heaven afar! She spat out sex and violence plotlines that would curl Pastor Sorenson’s blond hair. She knew more about these shows than the people in the writer’s room. She may not have watched it at 8:00 Eastern/7:00 Central, but she had watched it and that’s my point.
And yet she carried on as if she were intellectually superior to everyone else in the room. If I think someone watches too much for my taste, I think that’s bad, but I don’t like it one bit if someone thinks the same of me. Frankly, I don’t like trying to make conversation when the other person implies that their acumen is superior to mine, their lives are somehow richer and their spiritual plane higher because they have kept TV out of their lives. I want to see proof. Exactly what have you accomplished this week with all that extra time spent not watching a Ken Burns documentary?
© 2016 by Patrick Brown
Visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1 to learn about my books “Moral Ambiguity” and “Tossed Off the Edge.”