I like TV.
Don’t hate me because I like TV.
TV: it’s become so “not cool.” Maybe it’s always been this way and I just never noticed because I was too busy watching TV! Oh, I don’t mean that, though I kind of do. It’s such a fucking stereotype: those who read, those who taking reading seriously, don’t waste their brain cells on the tube. Real readers, real writers, real thinkers, don’t lower themselves to pedestrian distractions like — gasp! — TV.
I grew up in houses where the TV was on from the time we woke up until we went to bed. And by “went to bed” I mean we were asleep when the screen went to black and white fuzz, the steady hiss of nothingness, and someone had to get up and turn it off. Mornings were for Grandpa Red’s game shows; he was very good at The Price Is Right. “Come on down!” The lunchtime hours were for Grandma Ann’s soaps: The Young & The Restless, As The World Turns, and Guiding Light. (Yes, we were a CBS household. It was the channel that came in the best.) Weekends, when mom wasn’t working, we’d scan the TV guide to see what was on, and we’d draw circles around the shows we didn’t want to miss. Then, when dusk settled the day, we’d curl up on the couch together for a night of TV. When I was home alone all summer, the TV was my babysitter: old shows like Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Alice, One Day At A Time, I Love Lucy, Gilligan’s Island, etc… I swear it was Ann Romano who taught me it was okay for my mother to be a divorcee.
Was this the ideal way to grow up? Probably not. But that doesn’t make it any less true.
Look, I’m not saying TV is as good for you as fresh air at the beach or a long walk with the dog or hours spent practicing piano; I’m not even saying there’s a load of smart stuff on TV, though I do love my sports and Downton Abbey! But come on. It’s not smoking 2 packs a day or wolfing down a box of donuts in one sitting. It’s an electronic device and it has an off switch.
These days I do some of my best writing with the TV on. I can’t explain it. I just do. I remember a few years ago I pounded out an entire essay, editing and all, in two, day-long, sofa-sittings. I’m pretty sure there was a Godfather marathon on TBS that weekend. My back was killing me and my crossed legs kept going numb, but it remains one of the best things I’ve ever written.
I used to think I needed quiet to write — and I do love the quiet, pure and absolute silence — but that’s not the whole story. The truth is, I’m not that cool. To write well, I need to feel a little lonely. And whether it’s in a shushed library, or in a roomful of people with my headphones on, or on my couch with the TV as some strange kind of company, it’s feeling just that little bit lonely that gets my work done.
So to all the people who don’t need TV, I’m happy for you. I admire your lack of electronic need. I sometimes (often!) wish I could be one of you. I’m not even kidding about that. But alas …. I’m just never going to be. I need my TV. How else would I get all this reading and writing done?
Tennis Channel: Where Champions Live.