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Television nirvana is just one click away

As an urchin in the long-defunct Kerby Elementary School, I always faked it when other students talked about TV programs.

When they delivered a line from Red Skelton, I chuckled along as though in the know. When they expressed amazement about how Raymond Burr cleverly revealed the real murderer in "Perry Mason," I nodded in agreement.

And no kid guffawed louder when that week's antics of "Leave it to Beaver" were mentioned.

But I was living a lie.

Our family had no television. Our first set wouldn't arrive until 1963 in the form of an old black and white behemoth bequeathed by our maternal grandmother.

Fast forward four decades.

After watching TV programs evolve over the years, I quit watching. Cold turkey. The screen went static six years ago when Maureen and I bought our cabin tucked down in a little valley half a dozen miles south of Jacksonville. We had no reception. Nada.

Initially, we had planned to buy a satellite dish. But we discovered we were too busy living to pull up a chair and stare from the sidelines. We also found our reality much more interesting than any TV pseudo-reality show.

Life has come full circle. The difference, of course, is that I don't pretend to know what is on the screen.

Perhaps its been the weather, but lately I've been curious about what's happening on the tube. I've also been wondering about the impact of the Hollywood writers' strike. As someone who struggles to put words together to hack out a living, I have a lot of admiration for real writers.

As luck would have it, I was recently at my mother-in-law's house with time to kill. A zillion channels stream out of her TV.

Here was my chance to be an idle American watching "American Idol."

So I gave the remote control that special flick of the wrist, the kind that gives the signal a little extra spin. Apparently I didn't put the proper English on it.

Take the preacher in an expensive suit haranguing viewers about the need to repent. Please. His idea of redemption was for viewers to send him money.

Click. Off he flew into TV perdition.

Up popped another huckster selling a sure-thing scheme he had personally concocted, one guaranteed to make you a financial fat cat by buying and selling real estate in your spare time. An operator was standing by to take your credit card number.


The next entry was a sports competition featuring muscle-bound men and women fighting their way through an obstacle course. Picture Spartacus in brightly-colored tights.


The body politic was being pummeled on the next channel. Four political pundits were giving democracy their version of waterboarding by shouting down anyone who disagreed.


And so it went. There were endless movies and games, commercials and infomercials, news shows and documentaries. But nothing worth watching. Zilch.

Figuring I had just caught the tube with its pants down, I picked up a program guide to check out what else the TV world had to offer. Surely the reality shows would capture my interest.

Perhaps I'm getting too long of tooth. Maybe I just don't get it. But do people actually watch something called "Hair Trauma?" Just the thought of watching it makes my hair stand on end.

Nor is there any way I'm going to park my posterior for one minute to watch "Parking Wars." This show features the Philadelphia Parking Authority and its parking problems. Tow it away and impound it.

But who would want to miss "Born Country: My Big Redneck Wedding," a new reality series documenting some of redneckdom's strangest nuptial exchanges? Me, that's who. Nosireee, bubba.

And don't get me started on the "50 Most Shocking Celebrity Confessions." Not even promises of an Elvis return would keep me tuned in.

But a special program on the remote called "Off" seemed promising.


Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.