On Watching Television Very Rarely

So I don’t want to be one of those people who’s like, “I don’t have a television” and then act like I never watch screens. I spend quite a bit of time on the internet, and I write all day on my computer, and I watch movies on my computer and I have a relationship with YouTube. I go to the movies fairly often and I’ve watched a good deal of premium cable–The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Rome, Big Love, Entourage, Sex and the City, Weeds, The Tudors, Mad Men–if it’s got lots of “mature audience” warnings and no commercials, I’m in. I consider watching The Wire in particular to have been a better use of my time than attending a graduate program.

But the one thing I don’t watch is television. Regular old broadcast television, with commercials. I’m not even that into the few supposedly quality shows they show on television. 30 Rock‘s pretty good, and The Office is clever, but being in offices depresses me so much that I can’t even watch television shows about them.

The only time I do watch television is on airplanes. Even if I aspire to spend the time working productively on my computer or catching up on the New Yorker, as soon as I get on a plane the oxygen depletion dumbs me to the point where I want to watch television. And so I cycle through the channels until I am numbed and dumbed into a stupor. Each time I watch television at 30,000 feet in humidity lower than the Sahara desert and an oxygen concentration approaching that of Mount Everest, I follow a trajectory as predictable as the plane’s. First I am fascinated, then I am horrified, and then I begin to walk the fine line between suicidal and homicidal.

Some notes on American television compiled in the friendly jetblue skies:

Millionaire Matchmaker: I look at these people, supposedly looking for love on competitive reality television shows, and I wonder if we are the same species. Like, are they actually human beings? Do they have souls? Do any of us have souls? Are they capable of love? When they make out in the hot tub, do they feel anything? Is a human being still a human when she has Barbie hair and orange skin and a plastic face? Is sex the same when you’re made of plastic? Or is it like Barbie and Ken sex? When all of the rest of you is all plastic, are your genitals still real? These people do unfortunately seem to be reproducing, so I’m guessing yes.

I do love Patti the Millionaire Matchmaker, though. She is good television. She says “penis” a lot.

Patti invites some girls and guys to a mixer for a male and female millionaire, but—surprise!—the male and female millionaire fall for each other. Duh. That is a much better show, “Millionaires Meeting Other Millionaires.” A slutty girl shows up to the mixer. She is showing too much boobies. Patti yells at her. They get in a fight. “That’s too much boob!” yells Patti. “When I lead, I don’t lead with my boobs!”

“You’re just upset because I remind yourself of you [sic] when you were my age,” says slutty girl.

Patti: “I’m a 36DD and they’re real. I didn’t pay for them.”

Slut: “I’m a 38DD!”

“That just means you’re fatter than me,” says Patti. I think what Patti means is that their boobs are actually the same size, the girl with the 38 is wider around the chest, not technically larger in the boob.

The two millionaires are now dating, having eschewed the other people Patti planned to offer them. But the lady millionaire is 40 and she is afraid to tell the man millionaire this. When he finds out she’s 40, he’s not gonna want to date her anymore. First of all, that lady is obviously over 40. She just is. She’s very blonde and pretty in a plastic Barbie way, but she is obviously, despite however many thousands of dollars she’s spent attempting to look like a 29-year-old Barbie, a 40-plus-year-old Barbie. Her attempts at living mummification have not worked. Will the man-millionaire be able to tolerate the fact that despite the quality of this woman’s living mummification, she is, in fact, 40? We won’t find out until the next episode. In the previews, Patty yells at the plastic man millionaire. “Bull-BLEEP!” she yells. Why do they have to do the bleeps when I know she’s saying, “shit”?

How did these morons get to be millionaires? Why am I not a millionaire if these morons are millionaires? I find rich people so unattractive. I do not want to marry a millionaire. Is there a show called, “Who Wants to Beat the Crap Out of a Millionaire?”

Maybe I could be on my own show. It could be called, “Who wants to marry a hyperverbal and neurotic ex-New Yorker-turned-outdoor enthusiast who thinks she has $1500 in savings but doesn’t really, because she hasn’t paid her credit card bill yet?”

The Simpsons is on. Many people think the Simpsons is genius, but I believe that having too encyclopedic a knowledge of the Simpsons is a sign of low sex drive in adult males. The energy spent cataloging all those episodes of the Simpsons depletes testosterone and vitality.

That 70s Show is on. What a lame show! It’s about the seventies and no one is smoking pot. I know that’s what the fisheye camera circle is supposed to hint at, but that’s not the same as the rampant pot smoking in, like, Dazed and Confused. This is why television is so stupid. It’s life with the sex, drugs and cursing removed. What else does anyone even care about besides sex, drugs and cursing?

Iron Chef is on. This show is pretty cool but makes me hungry. I hate watching food on television. This is especially cruel on an airplane. I already ate the snack I brought and now I’m basically just waiting with great anticipation for them to bring around the blue potato chips. This is torture, watching these guys make foam out of peas. I want that pea foam so badly! I could put it on my blue potato chips!

Here is a show in which a real estate agent takes people around to look at houses they may or may not buy. Finally, some regular-looking people on television. Actually, some really unattractive people. Wow, this couple is really unattractive. And that house is not that nice, either. Ugh, wall-to-wall carpeting. Will the unattractive couple buy the unattractive house or not? It is close to the interstate, for work. But the bathrooms need updating. How did this show about unfabulous people considering—but ultimately not even buying—unfabulous houses make it onto television?

Now for some reason my sound is messed up and the only show coming in with decent sound is one of those grisly cop shows. Or maybe it’s about some other, more obscure branch of law enforcement, since cops have so long since been exhausted that now we are being fed shows about U.S. Marshals and coroners. The lead actress looks vaguely familiar. I think I read an in-depth article about her house while waiting in a dentist’s office. I think she had a football player’s twins. She’s all serious. There’s a body in a basement somewhere. Decomposed rape victim. Can’t watch this, will get nightmares.

Obama being interviewed. Something about the Democrats having to be willing to do something with the Democrats’ sacred cows. He doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing, does he? Is the once-promising president really that stupid? If he is governing the land that is watching this television, then he must be.

60 Minutes piece about Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg and the guy who founded Google. What self-important weird little autistic billionaires those guys all are. But I am using the things they invented many of my waking moments, can’t deny it. They are so weird. To have that kind of prescience you have to be really weird, so you can smell what it is that all of civilization needs and invent it. All of civilization needs to be able to search all of civilization. All of civilization will need windows to multitask on its computers and this is how all computers shall be organized hereafter. All of civilization wants to have a disembodied-head representation of its social network. But how do you know this before the word “social network” even exists?

I went to one of the colleges that had a facebook. All the kids who failed to send in pictures to our facebook were represented by pictures of teddy bears. (Our team was Bears.) If someone wanted to show you someone else they thought was hot, you might look them up and then be like, “Oh, he’s a teddy bear.” Or you could see his high school yearbook photo, which might or might not accurately predict the effects of college-level beer consumption. How did that turn into a worldwide network in which we are all absorbed? Why does this guy wearing a hoodie have fifty billion dollars? Why is Bill Gates now curing malaria? Why not?

Here is one of those shows about lots of really awful women saying really awful things to one another in between throwing awful parties. No men on this show. This is a show exclusively about the awfulness of women. I can’t bear to watch because the women remind me of the women of the suburb where I grew up. Someone’s daughter’s Sweet Sixteen upsets someone else/luxury sedans/luxury SUVs/screaming, BLEEPETY-BLEEP fights. Wait, that wasn’t even the Sweet Sixteen. That was some kind of pre-party at which invitations to the Sweet Sixteen are distributed. Okay, these people are beyond redemption. They aren’t just plastic Barbie and Ken people who might or might not be capable of some emotion when making out in a hot tub. They are soul-less pod devil-spawn.

You’re not supposed to say these kinds of things, especially on planes, but I’m going to say it. Everyone on television should be killed. Everyone who makes television should be killed. Everyone who watches television should be killed. We should all be killed.

It is at this point in the flight where I lose my will to live. Just completely, entirely lose it. I am flying from the East Coast, where I have just met adorable babies, partied with my core crew and basked in the warm glow of familial love, back to California, where a summer of mountains, rivers and studio time awaits, but because of television, I have now completely lost the will to live, somewhere over the the Midwest. Seriously, I hope the plane goes down right now. I don’t want to live anymore. Not on this plane and not in this world, with this television.

I spend the rest of the flight forlornly hoping for death. Then, when we land, I shuffle lifelessly down the jetway. But somehow, after I’ve visited the ladies room, I feel a rustling in my soul. Maybe I do want to live! My friend Andrea is outside waiting for me! She’s so great! Maybe I got a text message from the river people and I can go on the Tuolumne the day after tomorrow! Maybe Andrea made us some dinner! I realize that where I’m going, to Andrea’s house and maybe the river and then the woods and then the studio and points beyond, there are no televisions, and American television is safely back where it belongs, in its deoxygenated, dessicating box, and my brief transcontinental nightmare over, at least for the time being, and this alone is reason enough to carry on.

One Response to “On Watching Television Very Rarely”
  1. Rebecca says:

    I have no idea why I didn’t read this until now. I love this essay. The part about the Millionaire Matchmaker is incredible.

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