The Idiot Box & The Idiot: A Confessional
February 1, 2005

To the extent I've allowed it, I have for some time had a love/hate relationship with my television. Don't laugh. I happen to be one of those people who names inanimate objects--cars, hats, lotion, shoes, you name it. Well, actually, I name it, but you get the gist. It wasn't until recently that I genuinely had an appreciation for the phrase, "kill your television".

I've never been a huge television watcher. From as early as I can remember, the only shows that truly captivated my attention were "The Cosby Show" (don't ever say anything bad about it or I will smite you and your seed), and "All In The Family". I am hard-pressed to think of any other television program that I've ever watched with such diligence.

My parents were the type who turned off basic cable when we got bad grades. Even worse was that on most school nights, we weren't even allowed to watch TV. We did anyway. Every. Single. Night.

When my dad came home from work, we'd quickly turn it off, and he'd put his cheek on the TV to feel for warmth. We caught on to this tactic very quickly and soon after we illegally watched, we started rubbing ice packs on the television to "cool it off". Don't hate. It was brilliant at the time. Needless to say, we weren't exactly the brightest crayons in the box.

Throughout my childhood, the Telly and I had a cordial relationship at best. It respected me; I respected it. We were...chummy.

My battle with Sir Television didn't start until my freshman year in college. Somehow our dorm managed to be the recipient of hotwired free cable. God forgive me, but I indulged with the rest of them. I mean, who could turn down free cable? It was then I first realized the television is the enemy of productivity. It fought me on my homework. It fought me on my sleep. It fought me on everything. I quickly learned that whatever you are trying to accomplish will be accomplished much slower in the presence of a wretched television.

As far as content is concerned, my general philosophy that whatever we take in will eventually come out of us kept me away from a lot of the garbage on the air. It's never been about content for me. It's always been about time.

Today my battle is similar but more complicated. Because I consider myself a culture critic, I'm one of those people who gets ideas from the television. Take MTV for example. Yes; I find a good portion of their programming absolutely despicable, but I also recognize that it is in part, representative of my generation. As a writer especially, I can't even begin to engage others in dialogue about things I've never seen. At the least, it's good fodder.

Then a few months ago, something really bad happened. TiVo. Imagine the possibilities! The ability to record every episode of "Newlyweds" from now until 2018 is just plain dangerous. There is a special place in a very unhappy location for the creator of TiVo.

I'll admit that while I enjoy my television a little too often since venturing into the world of unencumbered playback, I hate it just as much. From one moment to the next, I can go from completely incensed to completely giddy and all at the fault of my television. At times I rely on the anger my television brings me in order to push out some quality criticisms (read: rants). This isn't to say that television has redeeming qualities because it doesn't. Next to beating the air, TV is probably the biggest waste of time on the planet. Yet, one day I want to be on one. Go figure.

Some may recall late last year when I caught this revelation early on and wrote an Open letter to "American Idol". Well, the reality has descended upon me once again that I have to turn off my television. Not permanently, but certainly until I can get some quality writing done. It pains me to admit this because I was looking forward to ranting about Katie Couric, BET, and the sick, demented, and psychotic cast of MTV's "The Real World".

There is time for that in a month or so, but right now, I must write and catch up on reading and I fear the television has a personal vendetta to see fit that productivity doesn't happen. On more than one occasion, a few individuals have told me that I should pursue writing as a career. Call me crazy, but I actually believe them. I need to see to it that this occurs sooner than later, so when the television starts paying my bills, then maybe I'll reconsider. For now, however, the Telly's on time-out.

Posted by Ambra at February 1, 2005 3:53 AM in Pop Culture
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Ok, the icepack on the TV is new.

My mother retired while I was in elementary school so we never got to employ such antics.

And so, I'm finishing my report for class in 2 hours because I had to watch Monster Garage (grunt grunt) and Law & Order SVU. Sue me.

I only recently got addicted to Law & Order. The concept behind that show is brilliant. No running plotline and little character development. You mean I can drop in any time I want to? That's my kinda show.

The time to watch the few shows that interested me was never the problem. The problem was that once I turned on the idiot box, I'd lay back on the couch and my brains would leak out my ears. Before I knew it, I'd not only watched the show that I wanted, but I'd also taken in another two hours of junk interspersed with advertisements for stuff I neither want nor need. My wife and I had the cable TV disconnected at the beginning of January, after not having watched TV for over a year. We don't miss it a bit. See my January 3 blog entry (http://www.mischel.com/diary/2005/01/03.htm) for full details.

With Iron Chef on, (the original) who needs any other show?

"ALLEZ CUISINE!"

I got rid of my digital cable because I found myself settling into one of only two available states of mind: I was either drooling in front of the telly for hours or else I wanted to throw something at it out of the frustration of having 3.2 million channels and none of them having anything good on!

Basic cable all the way, though the expense of that is starting to make me look fondly upon that space on the floor and how I could put another fish tank there...

I, too, grew up in a house of TV wars. Parents still don't have cable, which since 9/11 (The live outside of NYC) means no recption at all, not that the rabit ears were all that great to begin with. I grew up a bit of an adict, though.

German TV is pretty awful, but I still have it on too much with the pathetic excuse that I'm improving my language skills.

Good for you!

Icing down the TV screen - that's a hoot! I can just imagine you trying too look all innocent yet holding back from busting out laughing during the "inspection". A picture of your dad rubbing his cheek on the TV would be worth posting.

I don't mind TV as background when I'm reading, but it drives my wife crazy. Otherwise, once it gets late I can't think of being "productive", so nodding off to TV is about as intellectual as I can get.

Don't feel like you have to watch TV in order to be "with it" and cogently comment/criticize on current affairs or mass media. IN and not OF this world ... it's a difficult line to draw sometimes.

While growing up in the 70's and 80's, I was addicted to
Star Trek, Star Wars, Buck Rogers, Battlestar Galactica, etc.
They, in part, inspired me to study math & science in school, because I REALLY wanted to be an astronaut. I ended up double majoring in physics and astronomy in college, and then eventually getting a PhD in astrophysics...
So, at least in my case, T.V. was an intellectual stimulator.

Can you believe I was accepted as a clarinet performance major at Northwestern even though I practiced in front of the TV?? Yes, it is true. I can so relate to this post. Have you read Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death or Ken Myers' All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes? These will convince you to throw the @#&*^$# thing out the window. John Piper says this, "If all other variables are equal, your capacity to know God deeply will probably diminish in direct proportion to how much television you watch. There are several reasons for this. One is that television reflects American culture at its most trivial. And a steady diet of triviality shrinks the soul. You get used to it. It starts to seem normal. Silly becomes funny. And funny becomes pleasing. And pleasing becomes soul-satisfaction. And in the end the soul that is made for God has shrunk to fit snugly around triteness." Amen. Enough said.

My husband pays the cable company $70/month and we dont really watch it. I really want to get rid of it.

One day I was just curious to see what garbage was on and Keith Olberman was talking about how Dr. Dobson got his "fundamentalist followers" to write him about teh whole spongebob thing. Olberman said Dr. Dobson said spongebob was gay which is a total untruth. Olberman was basically saying theres no harm in pbs using tax dollars to make lesbian bunnies in a cartoon to try to make kids think its okay. Im just glad my child wont be in the local government school to hear about how "heathter has two mommies" in kindergarted

I once heard a man a church say that the problem with TV is that "It destroys our sensitivity to sin." That statement seared into my brain and I use it as a guide to watch TV, which means news programs, sports (some), and old movies. God bless!

Aw man, you missed your chance!
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