Just Shoot My TV
by Candice Owens
I am not a couch potato. I don't have a couch. Technically, I'm a futon potato. But whatever the correct term, I am a television addict. I wasn't always like this. It wasn't too long ago that I lived without a television and kept myself busy with reading and going out and listening to music. Then three years ago, a boyfriend gave me a TV for Christmas. He admitted that he thought it was "creepy" that I didn't have one and assured me that I could use it just to watch videos. And for a while, that was all I used it for. Then I started watching it only for The Simpsons. Then I discovered Scrubs. I added another show to my weekly viewing. Then another. And another. I went down a slippery slope and when I hit bottom, I was actually watching reality shows. I'm not just talking about The Apprentice. I'm talking Joe Millionaire, My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé, and Divorce Court. It didn't matter what drivel was playing. I would watch whatever happened to be on when I turned on the set. I justified it by telling myself that I just had it on strictly for noise and, since I was doing other things, I wasn't really watching it. Like any addict, I insisted that I could stop anytime. So when annabelle challenged me to go a week without TV and document the results, I really thought it would be a piece a cake.
Day 1: Tuesday- I came home and instead of automatically turning on the TV, I turned on the radio. It was the BBC newscast on NPR. Then I loafed and tinkeredread a bit, practiced my guitar, solved some Sodukodid the exact same stuff that I do every night with the TV on as background noise. The difference was: I felt lonely. It turns out my TV doesn't just provide noise; it makes me feel like I have people in the room with me. A disembodied British-accented voice doesn't have the same affect. I went to bed early.
Day 2: Wednesday- I went out to a bar with some of my office pals. We talked about travel and the plight of the homeless and shared horror stories of bad roommates. It was fun. Then the conversation turned to television and I felt left out. I would have been unable to contribute since the shows discussed were all on cablesomething I don't have anyway. But it still made me feel deprived. We all left. I was a little depressed. I went to bed early.
Day 3: Thursday- I listened to my CDs. I tried to read but I can't read when I listen to my music; I have to sing into my hairbrush and dance around and pretend to be Liz Phair. I can't help it. So, I turned on more BBC radio. I'm becoming very informed, I think. I went to bed early. I dreamt an episode of Just Shoot Me which is what I usually watch before bed. It was a combination of all my favorite episodes. Pretty sad. Someone needs to just shoot me.
Day 4: Friday- I went out to hear my favorite band, Earl Pickens and the Black Mountain Marauders. They were playing their final show which made me sad but it was a fantastic show and it felt good to be out of the house. I remember reading somewhere that the best way to cure depression naturally is to substitute live, participatory experience for recorded, observational experience (going to the theatre instead of the movies, attending a concert rather than listening to a CD, etc.). I think there is some validity to that. For the first time in a while, I feel like I'm living a real life instead of watching the fabricated lives of others. It makes me feel alive! Plus, with all the sleep I got this week, I was able to stay until the final song at 2:00 AM without fading.
Day 5: Saturday- I attended a Festivus party. Unfortunately, the TV was on. I didn't mean to watch it, I swear! But everyone was gathered around it to watch Christmas movies and I couldn't very well walk out of the room and wait until it ended. So I watched along with everyone else. One of the movies we watched was Scrooged. In the scene with The Spirit of Christmas Past, Bill Murray's character talks about things he did as a child and the spirit reminds informs him that Murray was actually remembering an episode from The Courtship of Eddie's Father. I started to wonder if some of my fond memories actually happened to me or if I only think they happened because I remembered watching them. It's a scary thought. Later, we played poker and drinking games and talked; but the TV was on all the while. It started to grate on my nerves like an obnoxious, unwanted guest that won't leave and won't shut the hell up.
Day 6: Sunday- I went out to brunch with some friends. Our monthly brunches are an all-day event so I didn't have a chance to watch TV. And a funny thing: no one talked about TV. Not even once. I left the table feeling witty and urbane. In my mind, it was the Algonquin round table and I was Dorothy Parkerminus the crippling depression.
Day 7: Monday- TV? Who needs it? I didn't miss it and I didn't think about it. I feel more rested than I have in years. And I didn't have the radio on either. I just enjoyed the lovely silence. I went to bed early.
Day 8: Tuesday- My first day "back." I had some things to take care of at home so I took off from work. I decided to keep the TV on all day, just to see how I felt. I turned on a court show and watching those people trade in their dignity for a little attention made me sad. I had to turn it off. A few hours later, I turned it on again and I felt anxious. I kept it on the rest of the day. That night, I watched my usual shows before bed. Although I became tired and wanted to turn in, I felt compelled to stay up much longer than my body wanted. It was like a hook was in me. Fortunately, I managed to turn it off before Just Shoot Me came on.
The next day, I felt awful, exhausted and drained. I seriously considered giving up my television. But I decided against it. Here's why:
During the week, I listened to a story on the radio about the Civil Rights movement and how the struggle was brought into people's homes though television, thereby allowing it to the movement to grow ever stronger. I thought about how television also brought the Vietnam conflict into people's homes and forever changed how Americans thought of war. I imagined how my parents must have marveled to see a man walk on the moon and how they, along with the entire nation, mourned when they witnessed the assassination of John Kennedy. I remembered my own devasation at seeing the space shuttle disaster and the World Trade Center attack. I remembered watching joyfully as the Berlin wall come down and I remembered my heart filling with hope as I watched Live Aid. For better or worse, television unites us. It is a powerful medium. I will not throw out my television, but I will treat it with the proper respect. Yes, respect. Of course, I will still watch The Apprentice and The Simpsons and maybe I'll even give Lost a chance. But I will watch them by choice, not because it just happens to be on. I will think before I tune in. I will own a television. I will not own a boob tube.
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