Letters From the Editor

TV Ration

Telling people I don’t watch TV always gets a look that says, “Listen jerk, don’t give me your self-righteous crap about being better than me, and please don’t tell me how you make your own granola.” There’s no way around it. Ninety-eight percent of the people I know watch television regularly, and that’s a conservative estimate. And I don’t brag in front of them—it’s nothing to brag about, I just don’t like television—if anything I try to hide my ignorance, when the bar conversation turns to American Idol or The Apprentice or the Friends finale and I, staring in my drink, feel a bit like the idiot who’s shown up for a casual dinner party dressed in tights for a Renaissance fair.

I do own a television, but it’s only for watching movies. In my time in New York I’ve never had TV; for a while I had a small one that lived in the closet. We had a rabbit ears set-up until a few months when we decided, my wife and I, that we were better off without car commercials. That was really the tipping point, realizing we’d memorized the make and advancements of the new Saturn model though we had to turn to our address books for a friend’s telephone number. So I’ve learned not to let people know I don’t watch television. A few days after the Friends finale, I instant-messaged my sister to find out how Rachel and Ross had fared. We rent the DVDs for recent seasons of the Sopranos to stay up on who’s dead. But the amount of advertising in my head has decreased significantly, and there’s now more time for reading, or listening to music in solid blocks, or darning my jousting skirt. Anything better than being told every night in December which electric razor I need for Christmas.

Everyone in New York watches TV. A few years ago, at a friend’s place in the Upper East Side, I went out on his deck and watched the surrounding tall buildings flicker. That night the final episode of a reality show was playing, and we knew loads of people who were staying in to watch. When a commercial break came on, these two buildings in front of me changed color in a few dozen windows all at once, blue to black or green to white, thirty floors of flashing glimpses; because everyone was watching the same channel, the flickers came in perfect sync up and down the walls, like tiers of paparazzi shooting some actress at a premiere but with their flashbulbs wired to a single trigger.

I was reminded of this last night listening to Dick Wolf talk on NPR about his new Law & Order show to debut soon on NBC, and thought of Simon Gray’s comment in The Smoking Diaries that while he wasn’t sure if he loved his father, he knew he loved Law & Order, and I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I had watched Law & Order but on a recent flight I’d caught an episode of Without A Trace and thought it was great, and for a moment, a very short moment, half-second maybe, I thought about digging through the closet for the rabbit ears just to see what was playing.

I do not make my own granola. But if you’re looking for a guy to drink mead and hustle wenches, I’m your dude.

biopic

Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded TMN with publisher Andrew Womack in 1999. He is the author of three books, including his latest novel The Last Kid Left (NPR’s Best Books of the Year). His nonfiction appears in a variety of magazines, mostly GQ. More information can be found at rosecransbaldwin.com. More by Rosecrans Baldwin

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