If you ever find yourself alone in your kitchen, shouting “Sharif, go for the piñata!” it means that you have joined me in a low place…..daytime TV. More specifically, game shows. Most specifically, the new updated “Let’s Make a Deal.” And, FYI, Sharif did not go for the piñata but got zonked, instead. No one, not even Sharif, listens to me.
I was a big game show watcher when I was a kid, especially if I wasn’t feeling well. Maybe, like me, when you stayed home from school, your day was broken into half hour increments: there was the original Jeopardy before the electronic screen and Alex Trebek’s penchant for exaggerated foreign accents. Then, Password where that creepy, disembodied voice would whisper the secret word. Later, the leering Gene Rayburn showed up with his panel of smartasses on The Match Game. I even have cloudy black and white memories of Queen for a Day where some poor wreck was whisked out of her snap coat and thrown into an ersatz-ermine trimmed robe and tiara. Bob Barker and I were pals long before his hair went white. Those were the days. Just thinking about it makes me wish for the cinnamon toast and tea my mother would bring in on a tray while I was watching.
I think that daytime TV back then had medicinal properties. After a few days of it, didn’t we feel better? It was soothing and fun. Now if you snap on the TV during the day, there’s Maury Povich waving envelopes with paternity test results or the soul-less Jerry Springer smugly watching braless women duke it out with other braless women over a toothless man. It’s, almost literally, a nightmare. What is the child, home from school for a day or two, expected to watch?
I still do enjoy television during the daylight hours. If I’m home alone, I’ll fold laundry to the Food Channel and pine for the well-appointed kitchens of photogenic chefs who flash their cleavage (even the men) as they snap asparagus and ricochet about between their matching Sub-Zeros. Does everyone cook in low cut, tight-fitting tops but me? Who cares—because I’m flipping to QVC for a few minutes where I will resist buying Christmas wreaths in July before moving on to cable news. Here, I’ll be appalled by earthquakes overseas, political scandals and Nancy Grace’s terrifying eyeballs.
I love to read, do crossword puzzles and have been crocheting the same afghan for the past five years but when Charlie went away to school I made a conscious decision to watch more TV. I do not regret this decision at all. I have learned many things from television and made many friends. All the home shopping hosts love me personally and care deeply about my health and appearance. I have also learned, for example, why veganism is good for me (but then I tasted the cheese--oh my!) and what a “flash mob” is. Plus, I am entertained endlessly. It doesn’t matter whether Lucy is cramming chocolates into her apron or Anderson Cooper is dazzling me with both his sarcasm and silver hair.
Come evening, I have plenty to pick from, as well—Meredith Grey might be a whiner but I’ve come to love the fake rain pounding against the fake windows of Seattle Grace. And, of course, I was captivated by American Idol and Simon Cowell’s strange fixation with what appeared to be Hanes white v-neck tees—six to a pack. I'll miss him next season, won't you?
As adults, my sons lead productive lives and do not share their mama’s television habit. They watched what some might consider too much TV when they were little, including documentaries, wonderful old movies and travel shows as well as Power Rangers, Mutant Turtles and animals beating each other up with mallets. They became aware of world events as well as justifiably afraid of Geraldo Rivera’s gargantuan mustache. During National Turn-off-your-TV-week, we simply turned up the volume. I believe their interest in politics and current events stems, in part, from nightly world news during dinner.
Television is painted by some as anesthesia for your brain. I don’t feel anesthesized, I feel interested--I know more about where I want to go and what I want to explore…or avoid. And, Sharif, if you can hear me—next time, go for the piñata.