TV has taken over

And strangely, this is not a post about how excited I am that Grey’s Anatomy and The Office are back.

No, this is about the fact that it has finally happened: Americans now have more TVs in their homes than people. You knew it was bound to happen, right? According to the Nielsen study, we’ve just crossed the threshhold in the last few years (2.55 people on average vs. 2.75 TVs, in case you don’t want to read the article).

I know as a liberal I’m supposed to despise TV and feel ashamed every time I watch it, which you know I don’t. I’m supposed to participate with enthusiasm in Turn Off Your TV Week and decry the dumbing-down of TV content with gusto, a lĂ  Judd Hirsch’s paean to “Network” in the premiere of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. But I don’t, so that’s not what this is about.

What this is about is this little factoid hidden in the article: “In the average home, a television set is turned on for more than a third of the day — eight hours, 14 minutes, Nielsen said.” Right next to this one, a few sentences on: “The average person watches four hours, 35 minutes of television each day, Nielsen said.”

So, in a typical American home, these boxes that are apparently multiplying like Gremlins are on for four hours a day when no one is watching them. This I despise about American TV culture — the idea that the TV should just be on constantly as background noise.

I watch a lot of TV; I probably consistently hit that four hour a day mark like an average American, but it’s always purposeful. (Yes, Dan, the two-a-day Friends rerun habit does serve a purpose; it’s soothing and helps me unwind. Be glad I’m not drinking or toking out after work, which my students advocate.) The TV entertains me, educates me, soothes me, and, yes, numbs me when I want to retreat from things for awhile. But I also love my peace and quiet. Nothing grates on my nerves more than simply having the TV on. I can’t carry on a conversation while the TV’s on. I can’t pay attention to another activity. I can’t even go about the business of getting ready in the morning with mindless chatter in the background from the local news station’s morning show, which meant that my roommate at the AP reading and I were very much not compatible. Part of the reason I really wanted to thump her by the end of the week was the fact that the TV was on every minute she was in the room, including while she showered (why?!).

So, as always, you’ll get no liberal guilt here about how TV is rotting your brain and you should be doing something to better mankind in your spare time, like macrameing potholders for third-world infants. However, I beg of you not to leave your TV on as background noise, if only to avoid my ire.

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