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 V.15 No.17 | April 27 - May 3, 2006 

Idiot Box

Cold Turkey

TV Turnoff Week 2006

Are you watching TV this week? Well, you’re not supposed to be. At least according to the organizers of the annual TV Turnoff Week, taking place April 24-30. They say no TV news, no “Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” no “Desperate Housewives,” no “Married ... With Children” reruns for a full week. Are they insane?

Apparently not. The event was launched in 1995 by TV-Turnoff Network, a nonprofit organization that encourages children and adults to watch less television in order to promote healthier lives and communities. The thing is, I couldn’t agree more with their goals. The Idiot Box is an insidious device. Without it, I'd undoubtedly have a much cleaner house and be in much better shape. One reason (one of many, mind you) I don’t have kids is because I simply couldn't, in good conscience, allow them to watch television—which would be pretty hypocritical since I’d be watching a good four or five hours a night myself. (In the average American household, the TV is on for seven hours a day.)

Sure, I grew up on television. But my choices were much more limited. Back in the ’70s we didn’t have 150 channels worth of cable. We had three lousy channels, and if “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters” wasn't playing on one of them, we went outside and burned Army men with a magnifying glass. (It has been shown that adolescents who watched one hour or more of TV each day were far more prone to violence in adulthood than those who watched less than an hour each day.)

Today’s kids are illiterate slugs and shouldn't be allowed near couches or televisions or videogames. I, on the other hand, read books and rode bikes as a child and have earned such amenities.

So, given all the evidence of TV’s detrimental physical and intellectual effects, will I be showing my support for TV Turnoff Week by switching off my 46-inch widescreen High-Def television set? Well, here are the problems I foresee ...

Does switching off my television preclude watching DVDs? I mean, I could easily skip a week of broadcast television if it meant catching up on the countless DVDs I’ve got stacked alongside my entertainment center. But I get the impression that sort of violates the spirit of TV Turnoff Week. I gather that I’m supposed to spend the time getting out in the fresh air, learning a new skill and perhaps even communicating directly with my loved ones.

Does turning off the TV for a week mean I can’t store up my favorite shows on the TiVo and watch them all in one gluttonous marathon on May 1? Much as I’d like to go cold turkey, I simply can't miss a week of “The Sopranos” or “Lost.” ... Or “24,” which is really heating up this season. ... Or “Prison Break,” which is getting pretty preposterous, but I’m still hooked--at least until they break out of that damn prison like the title promises. ... Oh, and there’s that new season of “Robot Chicken” over on Cartoon Network. ... Anyway, the point is, there are shows I'm addicted to--shows like “The Sopranos” and “Lost” that make up a continuing narrative. Miss a week and I'll be left in the pop cultural dust.

Hey, what if I download the episodes onto an iPod and watch them? Does that count?

Oh, who am I kidding? I’m not gonna turn off the TV. I’m gonna get home from work every night, hot, exhausted and itching for a little non-stimulation. I’m gonna flop on the couch, pick up my remote control and turn on “Viral Video” on Bravo.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t be saved. Do as I say, not as I do. Just say no. New episodes don’t start again until May Sweeps, anyway.

For more info on TV Turnoff Week, log on to www.tvturnoff.org.

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