Stay Tuned

By Margaret Lyons

I hate when people say, “Oh, I don’t watch TV.” That’s sad and fucked up. That doesn’t make you sound smarter to me, or better, or more educated or sophisticated. It makes me feel bad for you because I love TV. It entertains me and surprises me, educates me and scares me, teaches me new songs and about new diseases. It’s good when I’m in pajamas because I just got up, or when I’m in pajamas because I’m just about to go to bed. TV goes well with banter or silence, with dinner or drinks, with friends, or family, or all by myself. I’m sure “reading” and all is very gratifying for you, person who allegedly does not watch television, but you’re missing out on the most expressive medium available to mankind.

I wrote a few weeks ago about the final episode of Friends, and will admit that I took a little flak for it. I stand by what I said, but more importantly I stand by the sentiment of it all: TV has been with me from the beginning.

I watched a shitload of TV as a child, probably because my parents thought that I was responsible enough to self-regulate, which was not the case, although I appreciated the small but significant liberty. My father has asked me on many occasions, “Is this (gestures to the TV) worth losing sleep for?” And invariably, whether it was Cheers, Moesha, Millennium (underappreciated), or a good old Law & Order, the answer was “Yes.”

I have watched an awful lot of terrible television, but I’ve watched enough undercover-good shows that I just can’t resist two or three more surfs through the line-up. Stand-bys are great—you can always catch an NYPD Blue or a Road Rules—but the shows that I have stumbled on by accident—Cell Dogs, Degrassi: The Next Generation, Sports Night—have been better. How can I sleep when I know good TV is out there, just waiting to be watched and written about?

TV was with me when I came to college, where, as luck would have it, my room in Woodward mysteriously had cable. If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is. I watched 90210 reruns before Hum, and that contrast was enough to rock my ass 9 or 10 different ways. People came to my room to watch their favorite shows, and it was nice to be an alterna-lounge, where the X-Files and Ed could coexist. X-Files was awesome, and Ed kind of blew ass, by the way, but as a terrified first-year I felt lucky that people were hanging out in my room. Less lucky when someone spilled a Sierra Mist on my keyboard, but still.

TV doesn’t care that you’re drunk and you can’t quite follow along. TV’s just happy you’re home safe. When cheek hits sofa, and the TV calls out Wouldn’t you like to watch an old Simpsons?, that’s how you know you’re home. TV’s not just mindless blahblah, although that’s certainly an enjoyable aspect of it; TV can still portray as much artistry and effort as any film or photograph. American High set a new standard for actual reality programming, The West Wing for dialogue words-per-minute, The Shield for violence and potty language on basic cable. These are good shows, interesting shows, compelling, dramatic, well designed and produced shows that deserve all their acclaim and maybe more, but people still give me so very much crap about loving TV. I don’t want to be embarrassed that I love TV. I have cried at American Idol, Nip/Tuck, ER, Friends, and 7th Heaven. I’m not apologizing; they were emotional episodes, OK, you heartless automatons?

I’m not trying to be a cornball, although I suppose in my Last Stay Tuned Ever I’d be allowed, but I love TV. In the last four years, I have watched TV in India (did you know there’s a weekly international edition of The Daily Show?) and El Salvador (the news en español), New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Columbus. I know, I probably should have been out sight-seeing or at least doing homework. But when you sit down on the couch and the TV whispers, Don’t you want to watch a Seinfeld rerun?, how can you not think, Yes, yes I do. Thank you, TV.