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The Column

La La La-la La La, Sing a Happy Song
7/28/02

I love television. And not in that drill-a-hole-in-the-side-of-it kind of way. It’s just that my life would be worse if I did not have TV.

My freshman year of college, I went without TV for a year. By May, I felt I had gained a lot from not wasting my time in front of a television. Sophomore year, my roommate brought his own TV. By May, I realized how stupid I was for feeling that I had gained a lot from not wasting my time in front of a television.

I’m not one of those people who will schedule his life around a TV show, especially since Seinfeld is only on in syndication. But if I’m around and not doing anything that requires a ton of concentration, I’ll turn it on and my life will be better for it.

I like watching Sportscenter as I wake up in the morning, and as I fall asleep at night. The only thing better than new movies on HBO are old ones on Comedy Central, which also shows stand-up comedy for hours at a time. And it’s scientifically proven - old episodes of Cheers make food taste better. It’s kind of like Adobo that way.

Adobo commercials totally miss their mark. I first heard of Goya (Oh Boya!) when I was seven, but never tasted Adobo until I was in college and someone forcefully put it on my food. I have used it on everything since. Maybe Goya could just drop the commercials and use the money to pay people to knock on your door and sprinkle some Adobo on your dinner.

Some people call television the idiot box, and I think that’s true, to a degree. Televsion, like most good products, trusts the consumer to make the right decisions with how to use it. Ice cream is a wonderful product, but I imagine it’s not a good paperweight. Similarly, you will fail if you try to use TV as a way to baby-sit your kids or to educate your idiot husband that you only married because you got knocked up in the back of his truck. That was redundant. If you use the phrase “knocked up,” it obviously happened in the back of a truck.

Along with marathons of Twilight Zone and Bill Murray movies, there comes a certain price we have to pay. Like Lifetime, television for people who don’t like television. The one good thing Lifetime has going for it is The Golden Girls, which is less a show about four old ladies and more a show about making fun of everyone you don’t like.

TV can be the idiot box if you are an idiot, and like to watch other idiots interview more idiots about how their idiot wives cheated on their idiot selves with their idiot brothers (or idiot sisters). But to an educated consumer, television offers bite-sized entertainment, and I do not feel uncultured for enjoying it. Just because a TV set is smaller than a movie screen doesn’t make what’s on it any less worthwhile. Oooh, maybe I could get a TV set the size of a movie screen. That’d be hot.

I know that I’ve lost a lot of time watching TV. A kid I went to high school with grew up with no TV and he won the Westinghouse science talent search. But that is him, and I am me. I know that if I didn’t have a TV, I would just play more ping pong. Which is what I did all of freshman year.

One of the best shows on TV was Dream On, which was about a guy who thought in old TV clips. That’s perfectly accurate for so many of us because TV was our first look at the outside world. “How sad,” you might think. Only if your parents had that look be the wrong shows. My first look at the world was through a hundred little blue men who always triumphed over evil, followed by a bunch of robotic lions that united to destroy a common enemy who was always the same size as all five of them put together. If your kid’s first look at the world is two suburban teenagers who like fire, he’s going to burn down your house. But if you show him the right stuff first, he’ll probably remember the episode where the Smurfs told him not to play with matches.

And perhaps the best thing about TV is that it eliminates poor conversation. If you have something to say, you can shut off the TV and say it. But if you ever need to fill dead air, a little half-hour happiness is much better than prattling on about something useless. If you’d ever like to not talk to me, I’d be glad to come to your place and watch.

Unless your TV has a hole in the side of it. Then I think I’ll stay home and play ping pong.

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