by mark thompson
Perhaps the easiest way to combat boredom is television. It sits right
there in the center of most people's living rooms, thousands of flashing
images on hundreds of different channels clogging data arteries all
day and all night, whether the power is on or not.
Although the national average of American households owning a
television set is 99%, I seem to fall in the small minority of people
who don't own one.
A typical American household keeps its television on for seven hours a
day, and I wanted to find out why. I pulled myself out of bed at 8:30,
let the German shepherds out for the day and made my way into town
where I had arranged to watch TV for 8 hours straight: a typical
workday. I stopped at a newsstand on the way and got myself a copy of
the Shotgun News just in case things got unbearable (if I only knew how
bad things would get). One more stop for a pail of gas station coffee
and I was ready to start my day.
9:00 - 10:00 Excitement
Mental Update: I settled myself on the couch with the remote control
and hit "power", and I did feel the power, the thrill of control. These
poorly acting morons and over enthusiastic talk show monkeys executed
with the click of a button. Here I was, a whole day of TV ahead. What
do I watch first?
Oooh, hockey scores. Too bad they were going by too fast to register in
my brain. Some good hits. I wish a game was on.
After getting a bit stressed I found an old favorite: Benson. I think
maybe it was just my Kraus fetish, but I was really into that show when
I was a kid. Now, however, it's just depressing.
Montel's show is about "You dumped me for a dumb reason and now you
want me back." Talk shows really make me appreciate my friends because
I realize how many worthless people are allowed to live. Granted,
anyone who would go on TV to discuss the most intimate details of their
private lives is inherently retarded, but damn, telling the world you
broke up with a girl because her boobs were too small? Strike one for
being so worthless, strike two for admitting it. A bullet please maestro!
Another talk show. This host looks like Horshack from "Welcome Back
Kotter". Topic: The woes of being a high paid model. Never mind those
with real problems, these poor beautiful models need our sympathy and
attention. Wow, I wish my parents would have gotten me plastic surgery
for my 16th birthday.
10:00 - 11:00 - Restlessness
Mental Update: So I survived my first hour and I'm pretty twitchy.
It's so nice outside and I just click and click and click and everything
sucks. Maybe I'm missing something, but damn I'm bored.
Matlock. What the fuck is up with this show? Andy Griffith is now a
lawyer? What court lets you submit surprise evidence at the last
section to the cheers of the jury? I guess something had to fill the
gap left by Hee Haw.
Talk Show. Charlie Sheen bitching about his new movie "All Good Dogs Go
To Heaven 2". Talk Show. Isaac Hayes is talking about his new movie
"Flipper" as well as his new album with Chuck D. and Sting. Do these
people feel like assholes being interviewed? They sure seem like they
feel like assholes.
Designing Women. OK, don't laugh, but this is the best thing I've seen
all morning. In the 15 minute exposure, I was forced to deal with the
issues of adultery, interracial sex, transvestitism, and bathroom sex,
which were all painted in a positive light. Plus Delta Burke rules.
11:00 - 12:00 Irritation
Mental Update: Fuck this stupid box. How can anyone watch this shit?
I've been staring for 2 hours and I haven't even cracked a smile. I'm
just angry. Why do these people exist? Why are they doing this? What
horrible vacuum have we created that this can survive? I'll never last
Martha Stewart Show. OK. I can get into this. She's making potato
pancakes. I'm getting cooking advice. This is a benefit. I am not
wasting my time. But, why is she making the sauce out of applesauce and
caviar? Why would I want to make a lunch that costs seventeen bucks?
Cooking time's over. Now we're pressing leaves. This should be called
the "Excessively Wealthy Housewives Who Have Hired Help Doing All the
Serious Work Around the House and Have Their Kids In Boarding School So
That They Can Sit Around On Their Butts And Make Tacky Crafts Show."
Best Martha quote: "I don't want to soil the pages of my expensive art
Graham Kerr. Another cooking show. I like cooking shows, but only when
I don't want to see the host impaled and displayed to other TV
personalities as a lesson. His food is low fat and he talks funny,
like he's from a foreign country or something. Fuck this guy.
Weather Channel. This is useful, but I have to sit through maps
charting weather patterns across Australia in order to get the lowdown
on what Indiana has in store for me. While I'm waiting my mind wanders
to the best cooking show ever: Cookin' Cheap. PBS stuff with these two
good ol' boys who dress up like old ladies and make cheap yummy white
trash meals. That was an awesome show. But I missed the Indiana weather
and now I'm getting pollen counts of South America sponsored by Vicks
12:00 - 1:00 - Denial
Mental Update: OK, I think I've figured it out. People don't really
watch this stuff. There is no way. It is impossible. No self respecting
organism would subject itself to damaging radiation for such a silly
reason. Computers are one thing, but TV can't be for real. It's like
the KKK; it exists in spite of itself with little support except from
the fringe. That's all I can come up with.
Price Is Right. Man, this show is still on? This is what I watched
when I stayed home from school fifteen years ago. Wow, people are
really willing to make assess out of themselves for prizes especially
for that pinnacle of prizes, a new car. Looks like a commercial with a
host to me.
When I started today I promised myself I'd try to sit through one video
on MTV. I keep trying, but there are two main problems. One, the
chances of actually finding a video on MTV are slim to none unless you
sit through a million credit card and long distance commercials. Two,
when a video finally does come on, the music is so weak and the
"artists" so pathetic that you have to change the channel for your own
good health. Mariah Carey or some bad bubble gum shit is on now. Maybe
next time around.
Okay. I'm really hungry now. I just ran to the convenience store around
the corner and got more coffee, two apples, a candy bar, and nachos
with extra jalapenos. I'm hoping I get a bad case of the shits and can
call this day off on account of "rain".
1:00 - 2:00 Despair
Mental Update: Right now I'm really starting to rethink my
not drink beer all day. Although I think using alcohol to anesthetize
oneself to reality is lame (I do however fully support and engage in
recreational drinking), a cool 40 oz. of Old English would do much to improve
my day. Must fight urge. I've resigned myself to this self-imposed
nightmare, and I must finish it, even if it scars me for life.
Rolanda. Topic: Blue Collar Babe Makeovers. Ahh, the makeover show,
where they take a mildly good looking person and cram them into a
slutty dress two sizes too small and fuck up their hair beyond repair.
This show was no different. Why take some girl in a sexy firewoman's
outfit and cram her into a black potato sack? Sure, kill all our fantasies.
Rodeo. Wow, this is sort of entertaining. I hope I see one of those
dumbass rednecks get his skull crushed by a bull. Now that would be a
sport, Skullcrushing. This all seems a bit mean and pointless. If they
could come up with a more creative way of torturing animals I might be
into it, but this isn't cutting it.
Yes! The People's Court. Yes! Wapner is the wisest man on earth. He's
probably like that guy who would keep your baseball if you ever knocked
it over his fence into his yard and try to poison your dog if it shit
on his lawn, but he still seems pretty decent. It's a case about Las
Vegas. Lesson: Vegas is a pretty sketchy place to begin with. Don't
make it worse by going with sketchy people, and never go with a guy who
would take his girlfriend and her kids to a strip show.
2:00 - 3:00 - Laziness
Mental Update: I've forsaken the couch and I'm stretched out on the
floor. I can't quite sit up. My muscles have atrophied and I'm feeling
pretty week. I'm starting to care less and less about what I watch. I'm
not being very picky. Easily entertained.
CHIPS. OK, I'm feeling lazy and I'm going to watch a show all the way
through, commercials and all. It might as well be CHIPS. This episode
combines the complex elements of teenage gambling, high school chop
shops, and the need for an officer to go undercover as a student.
Surprisingly he is instantly helped by a girl who turns out to be
property of the head bully who is in charge of the chop shop and whose
toadie is in charge of the gambling angle of the show. With the
precision of a sniper the show is neatly wrapped up in the allotted
hour. Everyone learns their lesson and law and order prevails. Why
doesn't Ponch ever get shot in the face or release a police dog on a
group of five year olds? That would make good TV.
3:00 - 4:00 - Calm
Mental Update: I feel a little better now. I sat through an awful
show and I survived. My pulse has slowed down a bit and my breathing is deep
and methodical. I think I burned all my energy being mad and screaming
insults at the glass screen. I definitely don't feel healthy. All that
food is just sitting in my gut rotting. But I am calm and ready to
accept more attempts at diversion.
Beetlejuice. Why the hell is this show still on? Wasn't that movie made
like eight or nine years ago? Does Winona get paid for being the
illustrated waif in the series? I like cartoons and this might be good,
but the reason behind it is corrupt and I refuse to be a part of it.
700 Club. Pat Robertson is a Koala in disguise and funnels all his
donation money into securing large amounts of land in Virginia to grow
eucalyptus for his personal consumption. His guest is a Christian FBI
Agent who prays to Jesus to help him solve cases. They talk about
breaking the chains of alcoholism and immorality. I really want a beer
CNN. Gristly war footage. It's OK, but it doesn't last long enough.
120 Minutes: A Decade On The Edge. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Yes, now this
will be entertaining! I don't remember if 120 Minutes was the thing I
used to have to sit through to watch the Young Ones, or if I was just
too lazy to shut off the TV after the Young Ones were over. There were
two cool videos I'd sometimes see. One was "TV Party" and the other was
"Institutionalized". However, the new wave crew pretty much ruled the
show (Echo and The Bunnymen had to earn money for heroin somehow). The
show goes into a history of "alternative" music and traces back through
the decades with a bunch of bands that were never cool enough to put on
the air at the time. If only they knew what they were missing now. The
show then goes on to praise Lollapaloozer and demonstrate Louis
Largent's (whom I have 100 12 ga. flechette rounds with his name carved
into) complete inability to relate to anyone who isn't a total cheese
ball. Last line of the show: "Thanks for supporting alternative music."
That pretty much sums it up.
4:00 - 5:00 - Acceptance
OK. Fine. TV exists. People watch it. It might make some people feel
somehow connected to the world. It might give some people
something to talk about. Something needs to take the place of religion
in the twenty first century, it might as well be something as insipid
and dull. I could maybe see myself watching TV at dinner, or maybe
after a shitty day at work where I didn't want to think about anything,
but I think a lot of people use it as an excuse to do something fun or
productive, I mean bottom line: it's easy. It takes no skill or
intelligence whatsoever, it's somewhat entertaining for what it is, and
kills time. It just does it in a pretty pathetic way.
Cops. Finally something watchable. I think it's important that people
realize what a shitty job being a cop is. Those guys work their asses
off. But sometimes this show borders on pro-police propaganda, making
it seem OK to violate people's civil rights, making police brutality
funny, desensitizing people to police intervention in their lives. But
then again, there is a lot of good gore on this show. No dead hookers
this week though.
TBN. Trinity Broadcasting Network. When I was in college I lived in a
house with a TV and no cable. We got TBN, PBS, and the Home Shopping
Channel. Needless to say we'd get fucked up and watch TBN all the
time. My favorite shows were Marylin Hickey and Benni Hinn. I even went
to go see Benni at Market Square Arena once. It was scarier than any
death metal show I've ever seen. Nothing much going on today. Just a
singing inflatable love doll.
Real Stories of The Highway Patrol. Enforcement hour continues. Today's
lesson: If you are driving drunk and hit something, get out of your car
quickly and go get something else to drink. The cops can't prove you
were drunk when you hit something. That might come in useful.
I surf for a little longer but nothing catches my eye. It's all pretty
much commercials for local newscasts, and if you've ever seen the local
news in rural Indiana, you know how entertaining that can be. It's five
and I hit the remote control one last time, shutting it off and feeling
the freedom as I return to my regular life, a bit shaken, none the
wiser, and pissed that I wasted an entire day of my life.