Sunday, July 12, 2009

TV - Just Not Getting It

I watched plenty of TV when I was a kid, and beyond. Saturday morning cartoons (Space Ghost, Wacky Races, Justice League, Looney Tunes); Dark Shadows every afternoon from July of 1968 until the last stake was driven home in early 1971. Lassie, The Adventures of Superman; Batman, and all the way to All in the Family, M*A*S*H, 60 Minutes, Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, American Idol, and Two and a Half Men. Up until about 3 years ago I also paid a fair amount of attention to TLC and the Discovery Channel, enlightening myself with such fare as Clean Sweep, What Not to Wear, and various medical tabloid goodies about the morbidly obese and those disfigured by tumors. Hey, it's dumb, but it isn't porn, and it never addicted me to the point of my contemplating the purchase of a DVR. Even as a child, TV took second place to books.

Books are still my first love. I often think of the many volumes that I traded, loaned and never got back, sold, and donated in the midst of numerous moves between Long Island, Queens, and the Sun Belt. If I'd hung onto all of those, I'd probably need a bigger house. A recent acquisition of hand-me-down furniture freed up a significant amount of bookshelf space so that I no longer have to create double layers to accommodate all my reading material. That feels nice. My book collecting has decreased somewhat in recent years, mainly due to budgetary constraints. Still, now and then I go on a book binge and Ebay is wonderfully convenient for such purposes. E-books are also starting to pile up on my hard drive. My to-read list includes Brave New World, House of the Seven Gables, Lair of the White Worm, The Turn of the Screw, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, The Wind in the Willows, Walden, Oliver Twist, and Freakonomics. Incidentally, is a great resource for classics as well as offbeat or obscure titles, especially self-help.

This 70/30 ratio of books to TV began to change about 10 years ago when I found more interesting things on the Internet. I suspect that timeframe for online exploration is true for most people reading this, though some may have started a bit later. I did Prodigy and AOL in the early- to mid-1990s, then got caught up in fanfiction (writing and reading -- unbelievably time-consuming), and that led to some good friendships that started out as virtual and gradually transitioned to real-life. Since moving to my present location, the local message forum, blogging and Facebook have added even more hours to my surfing day, not to mention my compulsive trawling of major news sites.

And a girl's got have tunes, after all, so Rhapsody, Pandora and a wicked set of speakers contribute to the growing amount of time spent in this one little room, occasionally looking out the window and getting up to eat, work, sleep and other less fascinating pastimes.

So now the mix has shifted dramatically: 70% internet, 25% books, 5% TV (including my twice-monthly DVD offering from Netflix). My husband frequently glances into this room and remarks "I don't know how you do it," referring to the amount of time I spend online.

He, on the other hand, has no interest in books, and less than zero interest in the computer, but cannot live without TV. He knows every major network news anchor and can name the entire cast of Desperate Housewives and the storyline of Ugly Betty. He suffers through Two and a Half Men because I like it, but frequently remarks that he's "getting burned out on it." He has a small number of movies he can watch over and over (Air Force One, US Marshalls, Monster-in-Law, The First Wives Club, Sling Blade, and Sweet Home Alabama, to name a few. He's also trying to get into Harry Potter but doesn't want to admit it to me). But one of his other favorite things to watch for hours on end is those Time-Life infomercials advertising vast collections of oldies from the '50s, '60s and '70s. And yes, they do go on for at least an hour. I hear the little 5-second snippets of familiar tunes and it tells me he's at it again. On the rare occasion when I wander into the room while he's watching, he'll say "Wow, 9 CD's, all those songs. A hundred and fifty-eight hits for $149.99. That's really a pretty good deal! Only 99 cents per song." And I'll say uh-huh, and we'll both know that unless we hit the lottery or something, the chances are slim indeed that we'll ever plonk down a credit card and order all that music. We've got plenty of CD's, by the way. But something about having ALL those songs in one place just captures Carl's imagination every time.

So I'm mystified that he can sit for such a long time (broken up by a Marlboro break out on the back deck) watching elaborately produced commercials, the same movies again and again, and prime-time fluff. I'm especially baffled by the allure of the tube, because on the increasingly rare occasions that I sit down and start flipping the remote, most of what I see is total crap. My ability to sit through most shows has long since departed. There's certainly plenty of rubbish online, no question, but the selection process is so different.

And yet, I don't walk up behind the sofa where Carl is sitting and say "I don't know how you do it." Because I used to do it too.

A LONG time ago.


Anonymous said...

I never did it until about two years ago when I gave my finger to life and decided to be lazy and self-indulgent.

Good thing is that I have tackled it by genre, and slowly each genre ran its course. Lately, I'd become a news junkie, but Michael Jackson cured me of that.

Reality shows I've never been into, not even Survivor. My latest thing is the Home & Garden channel: beautiful houses and home improvement. But after two weeks, I've started to be sick of it.

I never do get tired of Law & Order, though, so that will stay. But I can see myself getting tired of television and going back to books almost 100%.

Persephone said...

Ah...Dark Shadows...At age 10, I had a bit of a crush on Jonathan Frid (a fellow Canadian, doncha know).

I'm with Bruce Springsteen: "57 channels and nuthin' on" (more like 457 channels and nothing on: I stick to our local educational channels, CBC, BBCCanada, Bravo (the Canadian one) and PBS, but even they have slim pickings. Do rather like "30 Rock", but with the departure of "ER", my regular network viewing days are probably over.

Volly said...

Jonathan Frid was my crush, too! I remember one argument I had with my mother about it. She said, "He's an OLD MAN!" And I said, "He's younger than YOU!"

The argument ended there, but not on a peaceful note...


Kay Dennison said...

I've never been a TV. Some people laugh because I multi-task: I read or do computer with the TV for background noise. Books will ALWAYS be #1 for me. Every time I move there are complaints about my g-d books -- which prolly explains why I don't move often. lol

However, when it comes to dating (which I do less and less), my books separate the men from the boys. A few years ago a guy saw my overflowing bookshelves and said, "You have too many books." I politely informed him that there as no such thing as too many books; there is, however such a thing as not enough bookshelves. Needless to say, he was a one-date wonder as are the ones who say, "Wow! You have a lot of books!"

The correct reaction is: You really enjoy reading, don't you? Is ______ as good as their reviews? Unfortunately, there aren't many of those. Sigh.