Network interference

''Psst! . . . Sir?'' I looked up from my writing pad and stared at the portable Boob Tube squatting on one corner of my desk. ''Unless you've got something of importance to convey, BT, please remain silent. I'm composing a piece for my editor's deadline tomorrow morning.''

''I respect the printed word, sir, but I wanted to remind you that the 'Bob Newhart Show' has started. I know it's one of your favorites.''

I returned to my pad with its half-dozen false starts. ''It happens to be a repeat. Besides, your kind hasn't been offering much in the way of quality programming lately.''

''Is that why you've been ignoring me this evening, sir? I was looking forward to spending several pleasant hours in your company tonight.''

I scratched out all six leads and began a seventh. ''You're not much help when it comes to conceiving ideas on paper, BT.''

''Don't believe everything you hear, sir. I have much to offer in the way of originality. For instance, in a few moments 'Masterpiece Theatre' will be presenting Part I of that exceptional series you missed first time around.''

I banged my pen on the desk. ''You're beginning to distract me, BT! Can't you see I'm foundering in the desert of despair?''

''I know all about wastelands, sir, that's why I'm suggesting an inning or two with the colorful Boston Red Sox to help unblock things. Might be a no-hitter in progress.''

I leaned back in my chair. ''You know, witnessing a no-hitter is a rare occurrence in one's lifetime. Maybe I'll just check on the score.''

''That's the spirit, sir! Now we're on the same wavelength.''

I plugged in the portable. ''Wait a minute! The Red Sox couldn't possibly be playing in this downpour. You just tried to dupe me, BT!''

''A thousand pardons, my friend. I hope you don't think I would intentionally . . . .''

I crumpled the paper I had been writing on. ''I wonder how many essays never get written because of your insidious influence.''

''As long as you're in tow for the moment, why don't you check tonight's movie listings, sir?''

I opened my TV Guidem. '' 'On Golden Pond'm! Of all nights!''

''An Oscar vehicle with superb performances by an all-star cast, sir. How could you possibly pass up this cinematic tour de force?''

I capped my pen. ''It runs over two hours and it's ten o'clock now. . . .''

''Sir, you have my word there will be no - I repeat, NO - commercial interruptions. Go for it!''

I placed my thumb on the ON button just as a new approach to one of my earlier discarded leads flashed into mind. I uncapped my pen and began scrawling several versions.

''Sir, I must tip my antenna to you. You are the quintessence of single-minded purpose.''

''Thanks, BT. I think I can get a handle on this piece if you'll just back off. Things are beginning to focus nicely.''

''Forgive my outspokenness, sir, but do you recall on the six o'clock newscast it was promised there would be an important update later this evening regarding that international missile crisis? Shouldn't you be checking that out?''

I turned my back on the portable. ''Perhaps I should touch base with Ted Koppel for just a moment.''

''It's my job, sir, to inform and entertain - ''

I recoiled. Entertain! After Ted Koppel there would be The Twilight Zonem, Johnny Carson, Archie Bunker. . . . ''No way, BT!''

''You are absolutely incorruptible, sir. I'm impressed that my video charms are having no effect on you whatsoever. I must be losing my hex appeal.''

I doodled on my composition pad. ''There can be no conflict of interest tonight, BT. I owe that much to my editor.''

''Write on, sir!''

I tried to. A fruitless half hour passed before BT beckoned again.

''Sir, in view of your present dilemma I thought it my duty to inform you that David Susskind is about to interview three widely published novelists who will discuss their success in a TV-oriented society.''

In the throes of indecision I started fanning a newsmagazine until I was struck by a familiar notice. I grabbed my pen and bold-lettered a couple of lines.

''What about David Susskind, sir?''

In response I taped my note over BT's face: ''Warning: Editors have determined that BTs are hazardous to deadlines.''

BT silently agreed.

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