Must-See TV, All The Time

Must-See TV
Watch Television. It’s Good For You.

By Amanda Finch Broadfoot

I love TV. I know that’s akin to admitting an affinity for heroin, but it’s true – I love it. Call me an addict, a couch potato, a “slave to the idiot box” . . . I don’t care. I’ll agree with you even as I proceed to TiVo the next entire season of “Pussycat Dolls: The Search for the Next Doll.”

That being said, I’d like to make a case for TV. It gets a bad rap, and no one is standing up for it and saying, “It ain’t so bad.” Like most things in life, the television can be a tool for good or evil, depending upon who’s holding the remote control.

I’m not talking about the box itself. I’m always amazed that people (men) will spend outlandish sums of money to have the highest-resolution image and an ever-so-slight upgrade in sound quality that only dogs could hear. For seven years, I owned nothing but a 13-inch with a rabbit-ear antenna. When I finally did get a big-screen in my living room, I couldn’t operate the remote – which had more button options than my laptop – and therefore still spent most of my time watching the smaller TV in my bedroom.

No, my appeal is for the validity of watching shows. Comedy, drama, reality, or some combination of the three (how else could you describe “Busted in the Panhandle”?), I think TV is great.

Look at the education potential in TV. Not only are there whole networks like the Documentary Channel, The Learning Channel, and that one that airs live surgery of an 800-pound man, but I’m absolutely convinced that I’ve seen so many episodes of “Law & Order” that I could easily try the average murder case. Or at least sit second chair.

The Food Channel also has convinced me a couple of times that I could cook. But then I run into the kitchen, all fired up to whip up some frittatas, realize that I don’t know where the pots are, and end up going back to the living room to watch some more TV.

But don’t get me started on Home and Garden TV. I can now tell you all about flipping houses, room makeovers, and enhancing “curb appeal.”

I do not, however, want to actually do any of those things. I have no more intention of “doing it myself” than I do of “pimping my ride.” But if I ever have the urge to do either, I have an encyclopedic knowledge of both.

Don’t widen your eyes in horror, but nothing beats TV when it comes to babysitting. I invested in the Baby Development Channel at a rate of $9.95 a month before I realized that my child was as equally transfixed by the Diamonique jewelry on QVC as he was by those “Baby Einstein” videos.

Of course, “Baby Einstein” tries to teach a newborn how to say “robot” in six languages, and even as a grown-up, that seems way too much like hard work and is idiotic for several important reasons:

a. He can’t speak English yet.
b. He doesn’t understand the concept of a human being, much less an animatronic being that may, or may not, try to take over the world, or le monde, as the case may be.
c. I can’t imagine any scenario in which Billy might utter the phrase “J’aime la ro-BOH!” and not get beaten up at school.

He and I much prefer the “Backyardigans” (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it) and the “Wonder Pets.” That hamster has some great life lessons to teach.

If you look hard enough, you can find the answer to anything on TV. Take our national crisis of obesity, for instance. Solution: Fitness TV! There are aerobics, weightlifting, yoga and Pilates classes on TV. So you could get a really good workout . . . or just watch some other people getting a really good workout. It’s a good idea to at least occasionally remind yourself what that looks like.

And how did we get informed before there was television? Sure, you might say something elitist like “People used to read newspapers” or “Listen to National Public Radio,” but I ask you, where was the newspaper’s hour-by-hour coverage of the legal battle over Anna Nicole Smith’s body? Did NPR break into regularly scheduled programming to let us know that Danny Bonaduce’s wife filed for divorce?

They certainly never told me “how your pets might kill you.” Thank you, “Good Morning America.”

I’ll admit that the scrolling text across the bottom of the screen is starting to give me anxiety. And all those shouty debate news shows make me uncomfortable.

I like my news readers to be well coiffed and unflappable, whether they’re standing in the middle of a hurricane to show me what “wet” looks like or experiencing a teleprompter breakdown.

No matter what the crisis, newscasters always know what to say. CNN’s Aaron Brown got me through 9/11. Fox News’ Shepherd Smith held my hand through Columbine and the Columbia shuttle disaster. And Anderson Cooper kept talking about Hurricane Katrina long after it seemed that everyone else had stopped.

Of course, to truly appreciate the best of TV, you have to have access to a lot of it. We have a satellite package that includes everything from British soccer to five different C-SPANs. And for an anniversary present last year, my husband got me a TiVo system.

As someone who loves TV but simply could not learn to program the VCR, TiVo was revolutionary. Ninety hours of recording space, and recording a show is as simple as pointing the remote.

Ninety hours.

Suddenly, I have access to British TV series that only aired on BBC America from 2 to 5 a.m. And I no longer had to choose between “Lost” and “Medium” on Wednesday night – I could watch them both!

The result: I have a completely full hard drive on my television – did I mention that’s 90 HOURS OF TV?! – and I spend all my free time scrolling the program guide looking for new shows to watch, desperately afraid that I’ve missed an educational miniseries about the fall of the Roman Empire (no, I never got around to watching that) or an airing of the 1970s Olivia Newton-John roller-disco drama “Xanadu” (yes, I did actually watch that).

But hey, you can’t have too much of a good thing, right? Unless, of course, you want to go over 90 hours.

Viva la television!