The turnoff of TV Turnoff Week

Due to circumstances fully within my control, I will not be interrupting TV broadcasts in my house anytime soon. This is not a test. It is an actual alert from a viewer who declines to participate in National TV Turnoff Week.

Yes, I've read the publicity statements and I know the effort is being enthusiastically supported by many leading citizens, but to me the concept seems tired and outdated. It's like berating an obnoxious uncle at dinnertime while your upstart cousins are snickering under the table as they tie your shoelaces together.

What I mean is that it's unfair to keep slamming TV when modern culture offers so many other opportunities for wasting time and losing interest in the outside world. In addition to switching off the tube next week, how many parents also plan to unplug all the Nintendo games, block access to the World Wide Web, and lock up the Pokmon cards?

I'm not trying to belittle anyone's good intentions, but people who want to strengthen family relations need to keep their sights on the right target. One of the press releases promoting TV Turnoff Week made this claim: "There is ample evidence that excessive TV watching is bad for us as individuals and as a society." I agree, of course, but the key word here is "excessive." If there is someone living in your household who gets frantic at the idea of missing one single NBA playoff game or an episode of "Judge Judy," it should be obvious that television is not the real problem.

Many Americans believe Twinkies and potato chips are offensive to a healthy diet, but I don't think you'd get very far with a national campaign to stay away from supermarkets for a week. Many of us have learned to simply avoid the junk-food aisle. My family uses the same philosophy while watching TV. We know what's available, we shop selectively, and we discuss why particular shows are worth watching.

Just for the record, our top entertainment choices are "3rd Rock From The Sun" (the four main characters are the best comedy ensemble in prime time) and re-runs of "Law & Order" on the A&E channel (I prefer the years with Chris Noth and Paul Sorvino as the two detectives, but my daughter likes the more recent episodes featuring Jerry Orbach and Benjamin Bratt).

I hope all viewers who choose to turn off the TV next week succeed in finding enjoyable alternatives, but here is one final admonition: Do not discuss your experiences by appearing on the medium that is supposed to be your nemesis. A few years ago, some school kids in my area felt like telling everybody how they managed to cope during their TV-free week. They wanted that wonderful feeling that psychologists and media celebrities call "validation." So their teacher contacted one of the local TV stations and a reporter came out and interviewed the kids for the evening news.

Going on TV to talk about all the great things you did during TV Turnoff Week struck me as hilariously ironic. But such memorable moments are another reason I can't stop watching.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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