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TV or Not TV, What Was the Question?
by Mad Dog


I can flip through more channels than Michael Jackson has prosthetic nose tips and still end up watching a rerun of Blind Date Iíve seen four times or an infomercial for a miracle spray that covers your bald spot. 
The TV networks are firing up the publicity machine for the fall television season already and, like department stores which only stock bathing suits in the winter, heavy coats in the summer, and Ď70s inspired fashions in 2003, they need to realign their calendars with ours. Otherwise how are we supposed to remember when itís time to increase our Xanax dosage and stock up on microwave kettle corn, the Official Food Oxymoron of the Year?

   Itís difficult for me to get excited. Okay, maybe impossibleís a better word. After all, I can flip through more channels than Michael Jackson has prosthetic nose tips and still end up watching a rerun of Blind Date Iíve seen four times or an infomercial for a miracle spray that covers your bald spot. You know, paint. But Iím in a minority and I not only know it, revel in it, and proudly let everyone know about it, I figure it also means I can file a lawsuit against someone somewhere for discrimination of some sort. After all, what good is it being a minority if you donít get the opportunity to use our legal system to get rich?

   Obviously many people do get excited about television, aside from the announcers on the promos who tell us how incredible, funny, groundbreaking, and must-see the upcoming shows are. How else to explain why newspapers devote whole sections to television, including printing the daily schedule, listing the eveningís highlights, and paying TV critics to write articles using the same language they would were they reviewing stage plays, literature, and museum openings rather than being punished and forced to discuss Roseanneís re-adoption of her last name, how this seasonís eight sitcoms featuring a single father having to raise his children by himself are different than last seasonís eight, and the launch of the new CSI Network, which will be showing all CSI shows all the time?


If youíre an average American you watch over four hours of TV a day and will see 2 million commercials by the time youíre 65. This may be a contributing factor to whether a person winds up with Alzheimerís disease.
   Another way to gauge the importance of TV is to realize that there are 780 television sets per 1,000 people in the United States. While that seems to be a lot, weíre actually fourth in the world, trailing such booming countries as Monaco, Bermuda, and the king of TV sets, Christmas Island. Thatís right, little old Christmas Island boasts a whopping 1,266 TV sets per 1,000 people. Yes, youíre reading that rightóthey have more TV sets than people, which really isnít that difficult since there are only 474 people on the island. Interestingly, they donít have any TV stations, so they use the rabbit ear antennas as Christmas trees. And boy do they hate it when people like me make jokes about the name of their country. Actually, the Christmas Islanders receive plenty of programming by satellite. And canít wait for the day the CSI Network launches.

   Meanwhile, here in the U.S. we have 1,500 broadcast TV stations to choose from. While this seems like a lot, it isnít once you convert it to per capita, which is Latin for ďlike the capital,Ē meaning itís statistical gibberish just like that which they release daily in our nationís capital. We rank 48th in the world for per capita broadcast TV stations, with a measly 0.1 stations per 1,000 people. At the top of the list is Vatican City, which has one broadcast TV station per 1000 people. Of course they only have 900 people living there. It would be 901, but the Pope never changed his legal residence from Poland, and why should he considering he doesnít drive a car, vote, or need a library card.


They have no broadcast TV channels in Andorra. They also have no unemployment or military, and have the highest life expectancy in the world. Is this a cause, or an effect?
   If youíre an average American you watch over four hours of TV a day and will see 2 million commercials by the time youíre 65. This may be a contributing factor to whether a person winds up with Alzheimerís disease but we canít be certain without extensive research, which would require government grants. And me finding out where to apply for one. Hey, itís my hypothesis, I should be able to profit from it. Actually, itís very possible. How else to explain why 59 percent of us can name The Three Stooges yet only 17 percent can name three of the Supreme Court Justices? Okay, aside from the fluoride in the drinking water when we grew up.

   Thereís a group thatís trying to remedy this. The TV watching, not the fluoride in the water. Itís the TV-Turnoff Network, the organization behind TV-Turnoff Week. For the past nine years theyíve promoted a week in April when youíre supposed to not watch TV. They say watching TV cuts into family time, harms children's ability to read and succeed in school, contributes to unhealthy lifestyles and obesity, and teaches people to think that shows like 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter are funny.

   They might have a pointóa lack of TV may be a good thing. Take the case of Andorra, a small country nestled between France and Spain which no one except those who have taken a wrong turn on Highway A9 know exists. They have no broadcast TV channels in Andorra. They also have no unemployment or military, and have the highest life expectancy in the world. Is this a cause, or an effect? Itís hard to say without extensive research. Which would unfortunately cut into my TV watching time. And we canít have that. Not with the new fall season coming up.

©2003 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Read them instead of--okay, in addition to--watching TV.

 

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