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Opinion: A person needs to watch more television

Originally published Saturday, May 8, 2004.

Every once in a while, something happens to remind me how culturally bereft I am, and I vow to watch more TV.

A good example of this is that the television show Friends is finally ending.

Some commentators seem to view the end of Friends in the same way I might view the news that oxygen was going to be removed from the atmosphere.

“This is the end of culture as we know it,” someone said on a radio news program. He may not have been serious, but you never know. “Of course,” he went on, “there’ll be reruns, but after a while, you’ll have seen them all five or six times, and then what?”

Perhaps that won’t be so bad. I still watch reruns of M.A.S.H., another show which had a long run, and which many fans hated to see end.

It gets pretty easy, however, watching a M.A.S.H. rerun for the sixth or seventh time, to let your mind drift, and soon you are watching the insides of your eyelids.

But getting back to Friends, I’m not sure I could tell you what it was about, because I’ve never watched an episode all the way through. That is inconvenient when people say, “How about that episode of Friends last night?” and you have to respond with something like, “Yeah, how about it?”

I know the show tells the story of a group of attractive, but not too brilliant, young men and women who spend a lot of time hanging out in a coffee shop.

Most of the action stops there, although there is some flirting, and some pratfalls, etc.

The show is supposed to keep us interested through the scintillating and witty conversations of the characters, whom apparently the whole nation loves, but when I tune in, I usually find it hard to tell them apart.

I do not blame them for this. I should have forced myself to watch half a dozen episodes all the way through to get to know them better.

I have been trying to learn Spanish that way, by watching a lot of Spanish-language news shows on television. Somebody told me that if I watched enough of them, I would one day start speaking Spanish.

That hasn’t panned out.

In fact, I believe I know less Spanish now than when I started watching Spanish news shows, because whenever I think the people in the news are talking about one thing, it turns out they are talking about another.

Also, it seems like the Spanish people talk very fast.

And, they speak with Mexican accents, which makes it hard to understand them.

Again, I do not blame the Spanish news shows for this any more than I blame the people who produce Friends.

Another program I have a hard time understanding is Antique Road Show.

That show works like this: People bring awful-looking, old furniture and other stuff to auditoriums where the show is being staged, and people who claim to be experts take a look at the stuff and pronounce that the junk is worth quite a lot of money.

The other night, for example, this guy brought a painting to the show, in a rather nice-looking frame. In my opinion, the painting looked a little frowsy, but the frame was a great piece of work.

The appraiser, however, took a look at the painting and pronounced it worth enough to send both of the owner’s kids to Harvard in new clothes, while suggesting that the frame ought to be used for kindling.

In another case, an appraiser almost had to sit down to keep from fainting, he was so overcome with joy looking at this one old rug. The owner of the old rug, a guy probably a lot like I am, said he had been using it as a throw over the back of his couch, and that his dog liked to get up on it and sleep. Which is what the rug looked like it was good for.

The appraiser, looking as though someone had just told him the Mona Lisa was being used as a coffee coaster, told the rug’s owner that the object was a “national treasure” and at auction wouldn’t fetch less than the price of a half a dozen Rolls Royces.

So, you see, I’ve got to spend more time in front of the TV instead of reading dry, old books that nobody talks about any more.


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