Tune It Out, Turn It Off, Dropkick theTV
National TV-Turnoff Week came and went and I didn't even notice. Then again, so did Secretary's Week (I don't have one) and National Mistress Week (I don't have one of them either). But lest you think I'm not a festive kind of guy, rest assured I'm very excited about May being National Masturbation Month. I don't know how many people actually turned off their TVs during that week -- other than when they woke up on the sofa at 3am to find it blaring an infomercial for lo-cholesterol car wax -- but I suspect it wasn't very many. People, you see, are convinced that they couldn't live without television, the very thought of spending an evening without it sends hot Dawson's Creek withdrawal flashes through their La-Z-boy draped bodies. Still, no one likes to admit that they watch a lot of TV. It's like having the phone ring when you're asleep -- you can be so groggy you don't know what planet you're on but for some reason you absolutely refuse to admit that you were woken up. Don't feel bad. Like drinking orange juice straight from the container it's something we all do. Yet even while none of us will admit to watching much TV, somehow we can all magically repeat last week's Drew Carey show verbatim. Isn't osmosis a wonderful thing?When people do admit to watching TV they swear it's for all the right reasons: documentaries, news, educational shows, and to see if Allie McBeal lost enough weight to get sucked down the drain of her bathtub, which would no doubt be accompanied by the rest of the cast singing "Dirty Water" by the Standells. But if we were honest we'd be forced to admit that the last documentary we watched was "The Search For Pamela Anderson Lee's Implants", The Jerry Springer Show is our idea of news, we firmly believe Wheel of Fortune is educational because it turns out you can't buy an "N" no matter how much you insist it's a vowel in West Virginia, and we skipped Allie McBeal this week because the Home Shopping Network had a special on those cute ceramic "I'd Rather Be Collecting Spoons" thimbles we've been looking for and, well, some things are just too good to pass up.Turning the TV off really isn't that difficult. I just spent the last two months in a small studio apartment in St-Malo, France, a small, quiet town on the English Channel, and I did it without a television. This isn't really the sacrifice I'd like to think it is, since even if I had a TV I wouldn't be able to understand anything they showed. As they say in St-Malo, I speak un peu français, which is French for "Damn, I even forgot the five words I thought I remembered from my three years of high school French."In order to see shows I'd understand there I would not only have needed a satellite dish, but the right one. (For the sake of this discussion we won't worry about whether or not anyone actually understands Baywatch, The Howie Mandel Show, or When Hamsters Attack.) I went to visit a friend in Paris whose rented house included a free satellite hookup, and other than International CNN, the rest of the stations were filled with non-English programs like The Cosby Show dubbed in German and a Turkish station that (True Story!) broadcasts a fireplace all night long, the image of the crackling blaze being broken up periodically by a hand tossing another log on the fire. And you thought Regis and Cathie Lee were tedious.Going without a television did cause me to do something I used to do a lot of: rearrange the furniture. Just kidding. The only time I rearrange furniture is when I bump into it in the middle of the night trying to find the bathroom. Actually, what not having a TV did was cause me to read, something I haven't done that much of in years, mostly because I don't have much time but also because Classics Illustrated hasn't put out a new Danielle Steele book in years.But reading turned out to be good for me. It let me catch up on a bunch of books I'd been meaning to get to for a long time and, since there aren't any commercials in a book, I didn't get up every few minutes and hit the refrigerator, so I lost weight.If you still think being without TV is torture, be glad you don't live in Bhutan, a small country in Asia nestled between Tibet and India which no one's ever heard of, not even the 1.8 million people who live there and are not, as you might expect, called Bhutanese, but rather lost.Beginning on June 2nd, Bhutan will have its first TV station. To start, it will only be seen in the capital city of Thimbu, where all of the 40,000 people will finally get the chance to watch repeats of Seinfeld four times a day just like the rest of us. Then before you know it, they'll see an average of 15 minutes, 44 seconds of advertising each prime time hour just like us. And their kids will watch between 30,000 and 40,000 commercials a year just like ours.The next thing you know they'll have a National TV-Turnoff Week, but that won't affect me. Not because I won't be in Bhutan -- face it, stranger things have happened in this world, though I'm hard pressed to think of one at the moment -- but rather because even if I am there I won't care. I'm hooked on reading now. I'll be too busy reading the Classics Illustrated "Lady Chatterley's Lover" in preparation for National Masturbation Month to even notice.