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Take My TV, Please
by Mad Dog


I donít mind admitting that I probably watch Blind Date more often than any other program. I figure if I canít get one I might as well live vicariously through some other loserís.
I get very curious about what people watch on TV. Considering that the average American watches more than four hours of TV a day, which is way more time than they spend doing other fun things like eating, having sex and wondering if Demi can keep a straight face when Ashton asks, ďWhoís your Daddy?Ē, you have to wonder just what it is theyíre staring at all that time. Not to mention whatís on the other three hours and 40 minutes a day when the setís turned on but no oneís watching except the plants. Come to think of it though, if plants donít have a botanical right to veg out in front of the TV, who does?

   The reason I canít figure out what people spend so much time staring at is that I donít watch a lot of TV. Itís not that Iím one of those television snobs who has the set programmed to only receive the Discovery channel, National Geographic, Animal Planet, and Spice, each of which could teach me a thing or too. No, I enjoy ordinary shows. I donít mind admitting that I probably watch Blind Date more often than any other program. I figure if I canít get one I might as well live vicariously through some other loserís.

   The truth is, I donít watch more TV partly because Iím busy working, reading, and pretending I have a social life, and partly because I know there are a lot of people out there who want to watch more than the average four hours a day and I can supplement my income by selling them some of my viewing time. Not only does this fill my bank account, it drives statisticians crazy. Nothing makes the average statistician more mean than this kind of nonstandard deviation.

   Donít you just love statistics jokes?


Seventy-six percent of American households have more than one TV set, 59 percent of Americans can name The Three Stooges while only 17 percent can name three Supreme Court Justices, and hardly anyone seems to have a clue where the ďOffĒ button is on their remote. 
   Actually thereís another reason I donít watch much TVóI have a hard time finding anything interesting on there. Iíve been in friendsí homes who have cable, digital cable, satellite, bigger satellite, and every-channel-in-the-known -universe-including-a-few-that-donít-originate -on-Earth, and one thing Iíve discovered is that the more channels that are available, the more my TV viewing time consists of scrolling through the program guide. That is after I figure out how to use the remote. Or in most cases, figure out which of the four remotes to use in what magic sequence so the TV turns on and the channels change without the garage door opening and closing twenty times. And wouldnít you know it, nine times out of 10 I end up watching a channel I can receive over the air with good old rabbit ears. For free. And itís usually showing Blind Date.

   Iím obviously in a minority, because itís apparent that television is important to most peopleís lives. You can tell because 76 percent of American households have more than one TV set, 59 percent of Americans can name The Three Stooges while only 17 percent can name three Supreme Court Justices, and hardly anyone seems to have a clue where the ďOffĒ button is on their remote. You can also tell because newspapers and magazines pay good money to television critics who write with the same pompous, serious demeanor as their officemates who cover much more highbrow topics such as literature, opera, theater and NASCAR races. I have to wonder, though, whoís reading these TV reviews, since 80 percent of the people who read the newspaper spend less than a half hour with it. This is barely enough time to check out the horoscope, Dear Abby, and the page two corrections, better yet wonder for the 1,245th time why there hasnít been a new The Far Side in years. So when are they supposed to have time to read about which critically acclaimed TV show has been cancelled and which completely lame one was renewed for another season with the star being paid enough money per episode to pay off the federal deficit of your average country, Third World or otherwise?


A recent study in England found that most children there say they canít live without television. Mum, Dad, the Queen and even Fish-n-Chips flavored Cheerios we can live without, but please donít mess with our BBC!
   We learn our television viewing habits early. A report by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation found that one third of children under the age of three have a television set in their bedroom, while 59 percent of kids under two watch TV every day. Apparently Mozart is out and SpongeBob SquarePants is in. The next thing you know pregnant women will start holding their stomachs against a TV set so their children can get an early start. Is it any wonder a third of Americans under the age of 30 say Jay Leno and David Letterman are news sources? Or that 80 percent of fifth-graders say they can feel it when people stare at them? Okay, thatís probably because theyíre afraid Mom is going to walk in any minute and tell them to turn off the TV and go outside toóyuck!óexercise. But they donít have to worry, if she does they can always turn her in to Child Protective Services or sue her for child abuse.

   This early love of TV isnít just an American phenomenon. A recent study in England found that most children there say they canít live without television. Mum, Dad, the Queen and even Fish-n-Chips flavored Cheerios we can live without, but please donít mess with our BBC! Meanwhile in Iraq, a mother of four who finally got reliable electric power was quoted as saying, ďNow the children will not leave the house. They just sit at home all day watching satellite TV.Ē Hopefully not repeats of Me and The Chimp and Hello Larry. It kind of makes you want to sell some of your average daily TV viewing time, doesnít it?

©2003 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Read them. Or wait for the miniseries.

 

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