We watch... so you don't have to.

CHiPs Ahoy!

Some people look at a period of unemployment and use it as a chance for reflection or self-improvement. Maybe they catch up on some reading or do projects around the home or work on developing a new skill that will facilitate their re-entry back into the work force.

Me, I watch TV.

I don't mean to. There are plenty of things I could be doing while I wait for the likes of the Pawnee City Gazette and the Sioux Falls Herald-Advertiser to return my calls. I sit on the couch, fully intending to put on my shoes and begin my rigorous physical fitness program. But then I foolishly turn on the TV for background noise, and I find myself sucked in, even if the most inane program imaginable is on.

Quincy, for example.

I can probably count the number of episodes of Quincy I have seen on one hand, even if I lose four of my fingers in a freak farming accident. While I bear no personal grudge against Jack Klugman or even Robert Ito who played the plucky young lab assistant Sam Fujiyama, I just never found the time to watch the show. I never found the time to care.

Of course, that didn't stop me from making fun of Quincy. There is a running gag among my circle of friends where whenever we see Jack Klugman or a coroner or just whenever we want to say something obscure that will frighten away the common folk, we mimic Mr. Klugman by saying "Let's dig up the body." My best guess is that on the TV program Quincy, Jack Klugman spends a lot of time pulling Robert Ito who plays the plucky young lab assistant Sam Fujiyama aside and telling him that they've got to "dig up the body."

So I sit down for my first ever episode of Quincy, and there's Jack Klugman in the district attorney's office trying to get permission -- and I swear I'm not just making this up to wring humor out of even the most insipid details of my life -- to dig up the body.

Quincy is, by trade, a medical examiner -- not even the head coroner in charge played to arrogant perfection by John S. Ragin. Yet, Quincy in this one episode spent much of his time dabbling in other areas of legal work. There's Quincy investigating the crime scene. There he is collaring the would- be suspect. And to top it all off, Quincy even gets to make complex legal arguments during a court hearing.

I'm no legal authority, but I believe this exceeds the authority of a lowly medical examiner.

When Quincy does get around to examining the body -- that is, after he and Sam Fujiyama have successfully dug up the body -- it is perhaps the cleanest medical examination ever done. No blood splattered on Quincy's immaculate green scrubs, no bodily fluids spraying on Quincy's spotless goggles, no organs being tossed about by playful lab assistants. Nope, Quincy and Sam just stand a respectful distance from the body, poking it with a stick.

I haven't seen such total disregard for law enforcement procedure, accepted medical practice and utter reality since... well, since CHiPs, which conveniently airs immediately after Quincy.

I have a single gripe with CHiPs and no, it isn't Officer Frank Poncherello's impeccable hairstyle. The point has been made by others wiser in the ways of TV than me (read: Jason Snell) that in every episode of CHiPs when a car gets into an accident -- be it a head-on collision, a rollover down a steep ravine or a simple fender-bender -- bursts into flames, after the requisite slow motion photography, of course. Indeed, as Mr. Snell as noted, many people of our generation grew up thinking that at the first hint of automotive trouble, we had five seconds to get out of the car before it exploded in glorious technicolor. As a matter of fact, when my car broke down last Saturday on the 405, I remember fleeing from the car screaming "She's gonna blow" before the senses returned to my skull.

In this particular episode of CHiPs, however, the accident du jour featured a pair of young lovelies hopping into their Ford, stepping on the gas, forgetting to put the car in reverse and instead barreling forward through the garage wall and smack dab into the swimming pool. That one of the girls was knocked unconscious and the doors of the Ford wouldn't open only complicated the rescue effort being mounted by Ponch and his cohort Officer John Baker (who despised Erik Estrada in real life, but that's a story for another time.)

"Well," I say out loud, which is kind of disturbing since I live alone, "at least this time the car can't burst into flames."

Oh, foolish me.

Almost as soon as those words exited my lips, Ponch grabs John and tells him that gasoline from the car is pouring into the pool.

"It could blow any second," the frantic '70s heartthrob tells his big-haired buddy.

Admittedly, I'm no scientist. But I can't imagine how it "could blow any second" seeing as how the car was 10 feet under water. I mean, sure, if one of the extras standing uselessly on the edge of the pool so Poncherello can be the big hero were to light a cigarette and carelessly throw the match into the pool, the surface of the water might burst into flames, a la the Miami Vice Action Spectacular at Universal Studios. But even, then with gasoline having a different density than water, only the surface of the pool would be in danger of igniting, not the car well below the surface. I find Poncherello's frantic assessment of the situation to be less than convincing.

But more importantly, this episode of CHiPs allowed me to reach an even more rock-solid conclusion:

I have really got to get me another job. Followed soon thereafter by getting me one of those lives I've heard so much about.


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