Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Life Without Television

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While updating my silly Facebook profile I wrote "never turn the blasted thing on" when confronted with the "favorite TV shows" question. It just doesn't occur to me to watch television, which is an odd thing to be noticing since it has been this way for many years. I figure I watched enough hours of Bonanza, I Love Lucy, The Flintstones, Batman, Captain Kangaroo, My Three Sons, Bewitched, The Addams Family, Star Trek, Mission:Impossible, etc to last a lifetime before I turned 18.

In my 20's I didn't even own a TV. I once non-plussed a salesman who knocked on my door trying to sell me a cable subscription, circa 1981. He looked dubious when I told him I didn't have a TV so I invited him in to inspect my apartment. He left muttering "amazing....no TV." It is a matter of some pride that I have never paid a dime to any cable service for the "privilege" of watching television. That's almost as onerous to me as paying for parking, which is an unfortunate hazard of my profession (at least some of the time).

I suppose I'm no busier than the average American, but I just don't know when I'd find time to plop myself down in front of the tube and actually watch something. I listen to the radio quite a bit, an activity I can combine with other activities such as music copying or household chores. I prefer to get my news from NPR and a few websites and have never been a fan of the network nightly news broadcasts. The only time I use the TV is for DVDs; I do love films and Netflix supplies me with a steady dose of great stuff. But I seldom see more than one or two movies per week.

What's the downside of not being a typical TV viewer? When I was going to commercial acting auditions a few years ago the scripts would sometimes call for an impersonation of a TV character or type. Once I was asked to do a scene in the style of Tim Allen of "Home Improvement". I didn't have a clue what they wanted since I never saw the show. (I didn't get the gig, obviously).

Many years ago I went to a therapist who advised me to watch more television. She felt that I was isolating myself from "the culture" by avoiding television. She thought I'd be happier if I was more, as she put it, "mainstream". In retrospect, this was more a kind of political stance, and one that I strongly oppose. She was by far the least helpful counselor I've ever encountered.

Since I don't work in an office I don't feel a need to keep up with whatever shows people are watching so I can have something to say around the water cooler. My ignorance of reality TV, Dancing with the Stars, 24, The Office, and whatever else is on doesn't hurt me on iota, as far as I can tell. My cultural life is quite full: I'm an avid "consumer" of books, movies, music, visual art, blogs and so on. I don't feel the least bit isolated or alienated from American culture.

A big positive for me is that, for the most part, I don't get assaulted by TV advertising. On the rare occasions when I happen to be in front of a TV somewhere, there's invariably some inane, insulting commercial on that helps me to remember why I got out of the TV habit. Television advertising is horrifying. I can't stand ads on the radio either, which is one reason I listen almost exclusively to public radio.

I know I risk sounding like some weirdo intellectual egghead with my nose stuck up in the air. But I truly don't know what I would eliminate from my present life to make room for watching television. The fact that I don't enjoy TV makes it that much easier not to fret about feeling "left out". I know from experience that I'm not missing much, and even the best shows are no competition for a good book or film. I've seen the stuff that people have raved about in the past 5 years or so (Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, Sex and the City, even Queer Eye for the Straight Guy). They were fun to watch once in awhile but I certainly wouldn't plan my week around any of them. Give me a good novel or CD and I'm a happy guy.