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

A Monkey On Your Back, A Klingon On Your TV

Nobody's holding a gun to my head, but I feel that it's time to confess a few things. I watch TV. I watch quite a bit of TV. I really get into television. I own soundtrack albums and books based on television shows. I read TV-inspired fan fiction. I have entire series preserved on an ever-growing pile of videotapes.

And since I'm being honest, I might as well admit it--I love television. In some circles I might even be considered a television junkie.

My friends have pretty much come to understand me--that while they're busy worrying about dating, I am pursuing a serious relationship with my TV set. It's not exactly the most fulfilling relationship I've ever had. In fact, it's kind of like dating a really great-looking guy who says something vaguely intelligent about once a month, and never when anyone else is around. But I'm not complaining.

Well, I guess I am, maybe just a little. Not about the relationship with the ol' set... that's moving along just swimmingly. Or it would be, if the Sci-Fi channel would quit changing its schedule every week. No, my complaint is about public perception, and the trend toward persecution in the latter years of of the 20th century.

Let's get right down to it--I am sick and tired of the amount of crap I take about watching television.

Here's a typical scenario:

Judgmental friend: So what are you up to this weekend? Any plans for Saturday night?

Me: I thought I might stay in and relax. There's an episode of Xena on that I haven't seen yet, and I'm not sure but I think Joe Bob is showing something good on "Monstervision" this week.

Judgmental friend: (heavy, patronizing sigh) Still don't have a life, huh? How can you watch so much TV? Aren't you worried about what it will do to your brain, not to mention your eyes? If you lay off it a little and get out more I'll bet you could meet a nice guy. I'm sure if you looked around you could find a good 12-step program. You know, I don't know if you remember any of us, but some of your former friends and I were talking about staging an intervention

Me: Get out of the way. I'm trying to watch Brisco.

Given this sort of a reaction you would think I had mentioned heroin. In fact, had I mentioned heroin, it might have gone something like this:

Judgmental friend: So what are you up to this weekend? Any plans for Saturday night?

Me: I thought I might stay in and relax. Probably shoot a little heroin and nod off for a while.

Judgmental friend: Oh. Too bad. Some of us were thinking of going out for a drink.

Me: ...and then wake up in time for Xena!

Judgmental friend: Whaaat? Aren't you worried about what it will do to your brain, not to mention your eyes?

And so on.

The fact remains that in these opinionated times we inhabit, drug users receive more sympathy and fascinated attention than those of us who bravely admit that we have a TV jones. How much praise would have been heaped on the recent film "Trainspotting" if it had focused, not on heroin users, but on a bunch of guys who spent their days sitting around an apartment watching cartoons and soap operas while they complained that their grim lack of social and economic opportunities left them nowhere else to turn for solace? How tragic would the death of River Phoenix seem if he had expired due to gross inactivity after getting hooked on E! Entertainment Television?

You hear so much these days about "heroin chic," that look being sported by such figures as Kate Moss and Fiona Apple. I want to hear people raving about "television chic," the look characterized by big eyes and a big ass from sitting hour after hour in the same position, moving only to click the remote or occasionally drag oneself to the bathroom.

I'll openly admit that there are similarities between drugs and TV. Television is one of those "social addictions," like alcohol or cocaine--if you're doing it, you want someone else doing it with you. I recently got one of my obviously unsuspecting friends hooked on seaQuest. A crime, you say? I consider it payback for the occasion some years ago when she knowingly and with some forethought got me hooked on the original Star Trek.

Television, like drugs, can inspire visions. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was moved by an opium dream to compose "Kubla Khan." I have been motivated by watching reruns to write the occasional piece of Star Trek fan fiction.

Like drugs, television can be a drain on one's assets--consider the rising cost of cable service, monthly electric bills, regular TV and VCR maintenance, purchase of blank tapes, and the tax on a roommate's patience when you present them with a list of shows you need them to tape because youâre going out of town for the weekend to where you won't have your own TV and you would program the VCR but it has limited memory and besides, it doesn't change channels, you need to do that through the cable box, so you can't just set it and forget it, you have to walk in and change the channel with the remote before each show is about to tape, and here's the schedule, but check about half an hour before The X-Files is supposed to start because the game keeps running late and they pre-empt everything to make up for it and I want all of the episode because they're actually supposed to explain some stuff this week...

It's not easy making room in your life for television, and I think a little credit should go to those of us who manage it. Most people don't realize the degree of loyalty involved in following the convoluted logic and aggravating Friday-to-Sunday hopscotch of The X-Files for the past few years, or trying to keep up with Homicide despite NBC's tendency to pre-empt the show whenever some celebrity loses a pet and the network smells the opportunity for a gut-wrenching, hastily-produced Movie of the Week.

It's equally difficult to put on a happy face when some irresistible social force meets the usually immovable object of your ass and you're forced to be away from the TV at the precise moment when they're probably showing a really good episode. Sure, you're taping it, but watching it later just isn't as good as living it at the moment of broadcast, when all the other fans are out there watching it and you can just feel the collective semi-consciousness, all fixed on that one point in the middle of the TV screen.

So I deserve a little sympathy and understanding--from my friends, my family, even total strangers. Please stop treating me like a third-class citizen because I spend a lot of time with my TV. Quit asking me when I'm going to stop escaping life and start dealing with reality.

Better yet, let's make a deal--you find me a job where I can kick ass like Xena while hanging out with characters like the ones from Homicide. Set me up on a dream date with a guy who looks like Bruce Campbell, has the brains of Tim O'Neill, and knows as much about horror movies as Joe Bob Briggs. Then, figure out a way for me to live on the seaQuest while being an officer in Starfleet, and get me a summer house in Trinity, S.C. After that, I'm ready to talk.

Until then, get out of the way. I'm trying to watch TV.


TeeVee - About Us - Archive - Where We Are Now

Got a comment? Mail us at teevee@teevee.org.

* * *