L. Neil Smith's
Number 317, May 1, 2005

"May Day! May Day!"

TV Turnoff Week
by Jonathan David Morris

Special to TLE

This week, millions of Americans will—allegedly—turn off their TVs for the sake of turning off their TVs. It's all part of an annual event called TV Turnoff Week, which urges people to get off their couches... and sit back down with a nice, quiet book. Perhaps you've heard of it. Perhaps not. They don't advertise it too well on TV. Anyway, to do my part to promote literacy, I've compiled this here list of the top ten things about television. Feel free to read them at your own leisurely pace.

10. Nationalism. That's right. I watch American Idol. And I'm not afraid to admit it, either. Go Carrie Underwood.

9. Loyalty. TV is the best friend you'll ever have (or never have, depending on how often you read Ray Bradbury). Unlike a human, it will never stab you in the back, because it doesn't have arms. And unlike a dog, it won't ruin your carpets, because it can't have accidents. TV is there for you—day or night, when the rain starts to pour. It's there for you. Like it's been there before. [Cue music.]

8. Efficiency. On TV, problems are solved in 30-60 minutes. Guaranteed. People say that's unrealistic; I say it's idealistic, and that's all. I mean, just think about the problems you've faced throughout your life—the feuds, the disasters, the injuries, etc. Time heals all wounds, sure. But most of 'em still take an awful lot of time. Not so on TV. On TV, ancient Middle Eastern rivalries would be settled in half an hour. The whole War on Terror would be over in less time than it takes to deliver a pizza. Why should we condemn this? If anything, shouldn't we strive to be so unrealistic?

7. Timelessness. How good are reruns? I love 'em. In fact, I love 'em more than first-run shows. Reruns are all about nuance—picking up on things you might've missed the first eight or nine times you saw "The Contest" episode of Seinfeld. Jack Ruby only shot Lee Harvey Oswald live on TV once, but go ahead, ask me, how many times have I seen the episode of Saved by the Bell where Zack and Slater get into a fistfight, and then shove each other over a punchbowl, and Mr. Belding's toupee falls in, and they start laughing and realize they're friends again? All right, only two or three times. But I really liked it.

6. Populism. The local news—God bless it. Last week, a beluga whale swam up the Delaware River because it was too stupid to tell the difference between a river and an ocean. Philly news outlets ate it up. Live reporters went out to the scene. For my money, that's journalism at its finest. Just watching these people makes me feel better about myself as a person.

5. Remorse. TV means never having to say you're sorry. In fact, TV means never having to say anything—period. Thanks to the miracle that is TV, you can theoretically float through life without ever saying a single, solitary word to your friends and family members again.

4. Unpredictability. Not in the shows themselves, of course, but in the channel line-ups. Take Philly, for instance. When I lived in New York, things made a fair amount of sense. CBS 2 was on Channel 2, NBC 4 on Channel 4, FOX 5 on Channel 5, etc. But in Philly? Well, let me put it this way: In my house, Channel 2 is CBS 3, Channel 5 is ABC 6, and Channel 9 is NBC 10. It's like a regular channel line-up, give or take a frequency. Channel 4? That's FOX 29. Channel 29? That's A&E. There's even a Channel 69 on Channel 15. I love it. Turn to 69, it's the answer to Pi. Oh, and the best part? In no two houses are the line-ups exactly the same.

3. Profundity. You probably think sitcom theme songs are just cheesy, throwaway show tunes, but you're wrong. No, in fact, sitcom theme songs are some of the most significant compositions of the modern era. Take the theme to Diff'rent Strokes: "Now the world don't move to the beat of just one drum. What might be right for you may not be right for some." Does this not speak to the crisis humans have faced throughout the ages? Individualism? Existence? Who am I? Why am I here? I won't even get into The Facts of Life theme song. You take the good, you take the bad, you them both and there you have it—truer words have never been sung and/or spoken.

2. Class. I just love the way people who don't watch TV make a big deal about how they don't watch TV. "Hey, did you see the game last night?" "Oh, I don't watch much TV." Oh, you don't watch much TV? Oh, great. Good for you. You're such a good person. A better person, even. No, seriously. Because human value ought to be measured in whether or not you press "On" from time to time. You know what? If more people wasted their time watching TV instead of trying to "make a difference," this country would be a much better place.

1. Morality. Sex and violence. Need I say more?

Jonathan David Morris writes a weekly column for The Aquarian and other publications. His website is www.readjdm.com, and he can be reached at jdm@readjdm.com.


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