Smile Politely

I can’t quit you, baby

I can’t write another American Idol column, I can’t write another American Idol column, I can’t write another American Idol column, but it’s so hard not to write another American Idol column at this point in my life on this Earth. I’ll restrain myself. But I might not be able to keep all references at bay. Like the fact that we’re down to the Final Four … and there’s only one girl left … and I don’t like Danny Gokey … and I secretly wish it wasn’t such a foregone conclusion that the competition will be won by Adam Glambert. (I’m only calling him that because of Entertainment Weekly’s amazing web show Idolatry — go back and watch all of them, if you’re a fan.) Lambert consistently gets the pimp lighting and choice spot on the show, so I’m ferociously rooting for Allison and Kris. Phew. It felt good to get all that out.

I think what I really need to say this week is that TV is ruining my life.

Harsh, I know, but it is. TV is currently ruining my life. It is sucking up all my energy and my love and my passion and my time, and I need to come to terms with the fact that I’m okay with this. I also need to learn to find a way to do the things TV is preventing me from doing. It’s that time of year. I have a few things I’m obsessed with that I have to watch — Cubs games, American Idol, Bulls games, Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives, various other ignoble programs — and I am just completely checked-out for a month or two. I have been missing important deadlines. I have forgotten about things I need to do at work. Family members call and I neglect to answer the phone. I almost forgot to pay my cable bill. In fact, TV has actually been preventing me from writing this column about TV. That’s just pathetic.

And I’m totally not complaining, though TV has been ruining my life for some 30 years now. I guess I’m just curious about the very personal relationship TV-watchers develop with their TVs. I never feel uncomfortable, guilty, or weird with my TV. Despite forgetting about my cable bill, I’m very good at multi-tasking with my TV. In fact, 99% of the time I’m watching TV, I’m also reading a book or Texts From Last Night and eating sunflower seeds (a more habitual habit since baseball season began). And I really do care about the environment (I’m hella good at recycling), but the TV is usually always on when I’m home, in the background, just being there. I grew up in a home where it was always on and I am very comforted by the glow and hum of it (the way you can sense a TV is on even with your eyes and ears closed). I like the idea of it being on in the room even if it’s embarrassingly parked on the umpteenth Lifetime showing of the Keira Knightley version of Pride & Prejudice (For shame, Amy! I should not be admitting this!), a movie I’ve seen, um, many many times. Or the umpteenth Encore showing of Alien, a movie I’ve seen more than any of you have seen anything else. Or the umpteenth PBS showing of This Old House, but we’ve already discussed this.

I remember enduring a hellish sickness when I was 10 years old, laying on the couch with the TV on. My Grandma had come to stay with me, and we watched Family Feud and The Price is Right every morning I was home from school. No other memory is as comforting as this one. I remember my parents passionately discussing Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, and for some reason, All My Children. (My parents taped All My Children every day when it was the shit in the mid-’80s — Greg and Jenny, Nina and Palmer, oh my god! — and we watched it every night while we ate dinner, usually Tombstone Pizza. I had a good childhood.) The routine, the degree to which I could tell the adults in my life were engaged by and having smart conversations about these things, engaged me.

My point is, these things are engaging! These things are comforting! These are gut feelings! There’s an ebb and flow to how obsessed I am with TV (I’ll reach the ebb as soon as American Idol is over, I promise), but I am always gaining something from it. I guess it ruins my life by being too comforting, too available, and too much of a companion. (Have you seen PBS’ American Experience The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln?  I have, twice this week, on my OnDemand, and a third time on the link I just gave you… it is flipping awesome … you couldn’t turn away to pay your cable bill if you tried).

So much to learn and know. So many romances and aliens popping out of stomachs. So many girls for Bret Michaels to turn down. In light of all these things, I don’t really feel that ruined.

See, that wasn’t about American Idol … mostly. Vote Allison!

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