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April 25, 2001

tv turnoff week is a big turnoff

There are some things which will always make me cranky. Always.

People who brag about not owning televisions or not watching TV set my teeth on edge.

And TV Turnoff Week makes me cranky.

This article sums up my feelings on the matter rather well.

And Tim Goodman's piece on the subject rocks. And not just because I made this joke to a friend myself earlier:

Turn off the TV? What kind of sick cult promotes that idea? Every year this happens, and there's only one act of defiance that works: Keep the TV on 24 hours a day, all week -- power crisis be damned.

Plus: there's a Homicide reference in there, too.

I'm gonna rant some more on the topic myself anyway (fun though it is to read rants elsewhere).

I've turned my TV off this week, of course. But I also turn it on again (and again). And my Tivo (sweet blessed Tivo) is always on, recording the shows I've told it I must see, as well as some suggestions that are usually pretty darn good, too.

I'm 29 years old as I write this. I grew up watching a little TV almost every day. Quite frequently I watched television when I got home from school as well as during primetime with my parents. I watched Saturday morning cartoons and football games and baseball games and award shows and lots and lots of other stuff. Old movies. Old (and new) TV shows. You name it, I watched it.

I suppose some might accuse my parents of using TV to babysit me, sometimes. Of letting me watch too much. But there were guidelines, there were certain shows my brother and I weren't allowed to watch. And there were certain times of day when we couldn't watch, of course, because we were supposed to be in school or asleep or studying.

Still, I've often joked I was raised on TV.

If you were to believe the folks behind TV Turn Off Week, this should have scarred me terribly.

But truth be told-- I had a good childhood. I enjoyed TV. I talked about TV shows a lot with my family and friends and classmates. My parents also took me to art museums and ballgames and libraries. To the theater. On trips. Yes, I did spent some time outside. I also read a lot of books. When I was older, I spent a lot of time online, too. But I watched more TV than your average American, I know I did.

And here I am, a person with a pretty good life and career. Who is frequently complemented for knowing a lot about a great many things.

How do I know this stuff? I owe a fair bit of it to television.

That's the element these campaigns forget. That you can *learn* from TV. I learned sports from watching them on television (though I saw games in person sometimes, too). I learned about animals from specials on TV, that supplemented the books I was reading in school. About far off places, history, science, and current events, too. Of course TV wasn't my only educator. Even the person who watches 6 or more hours of TV each day also gets information elsewhere. Online, at school, at work, in books, from friends and coworkers, and so on and so forth.

When my Mom and I were arguing a lot, could hardly speak to each other-- we could still manage to talk (and have fun at it) about the soap operas we both watch. It's easy to talk about a show that we've each watched for twenty years or more. When everything else was hard, I'm grateful we still had something we could talk about.

I've made friends because of TV shows. Bonding with fellow fans of Homicide: Life on the Street in the newsgroup alt.tv.homicide. Meeting fellow Star Trek fans at conventions. Chatting with other fans of all sorts of TV shows online or off.

Yes, it sounds geeky as hell, but it's fun and I wouldn't want to have missed out on those friendships.

Some of the funniest conversations I've had this year have started as conversations about The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

No one would suggest "Don't Read A Book" week. Or "Don't Go Online" week. Or "Please Don't Use The Telephone Week". Why pick on TV?

Being a TV fan isn't a passive thing. Sure, it-- like anything-- can be. But it's work to follow a favorite show. It can be work to find the good shows in the midst of a lot of not-so-great shows (though it's easier, IMHO, than it's ever been). It's fun to get involved and talk with other fans. And yeah, there's still some work or commitment to record shows-- even though Tivo makes it pretty darn easy. The best shows are compelling, they draw you in and make you think. I've had more intense discussions about morality and class because of the series Homicide: Life on the Street than because of any book or article or event.

I truly enjoy the time I spend watching television. I watch the shows I love and the shows that sound promising. I skip commercials. I learn from certain shows; other shows move me as compelling works of fiction. Televised ballgames still can make my day, too. It's all food for thought, it's all stuff I care about.

There's nothing passive about it.

And yeah, I still read books. And spend time outside. Spend time with friends. I often wish there were more hours in each day because I have so many interests, so many things I want to do, want to read, want to listen to, want to watch.

This is not a bad thing.

If I turn my TV off entirely this week, without Tivo or VCR running, I'd miss emotional episodes of Boston Public and Roswell. Really good episodes of Buffy and Angel. Reruns of some of my favorite episodes of Babylon 5 and Millennium. Twins games. A very funny episode of Ally McBeal. New episodes of The West Wing and Gilmore Girls.

And you know what? I'd miss that stuff. This is why I bought a Tivo. And a fancy VCR. And why I take the time to record things. So I can watch them at my convenience-- be it this week or next week.

Just like when I was a kid, I balance the many hours of TV watching with other things apart from TV. Visits with friends. Work. Time spent at ballgames, at museums, at clubs. Time spent reading or listening to music. Attending concerts or going to movies. Shopping. Walking in the woods.

But I can't imagine life without television. I can't imagine that I'd get as much about those other things were it not for a lot of the things I've watched, for the things I've learned or thought about because of things I've seen on TV.

I'd never dream of commanding anyone to watch TV, which is why my mind is boggled by those who feel the need to urge us to turn off our televisions for a given week as if so very much depended on it.

Sure, it's possible to live without television. And it's easy enough to go for a day or a week or more without TV, too.

But I choose to turn my TV on (and off). And my life is richer for it.

Posted by Laurel Krahn at 04:46 PM

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