GateHouse — First, let me preface this by saying that yes, I know ABC is kidding.
But let me preface that preface by prefacing that I only knew their tongue-in-cheek fall-season promotion — “National Stay At Home Week,” starting Sept. 21 — was a joke after a few minutes stumbling around the Google. It’s one of those jokes that’s not quite jokey enough to be an actual joke, because it’s not outrageous enough to be instantly dismissable. Comedians have a term for such a thing: kidding on the square. (The Germans also have a term for it: gangschmputtle.)
But National Stay At Home Week is indeed a joke, and I know that because in April there’s something called National Turn Off the TV Week, or maybe National TV Turnoff week. I can’t actually determine which one is accurate, because — maybe it’ll be fixed by tomorrow morning, but right now I promise this is true — the Web site www.tvturnoff.org IS NOT WORKING (EDIT: OK, it’s working now, no doubt due to the crush of traffic flowing in from this blog). I’m inferring that the nefarious agents of the multinational TV cabal Big Rabbit Ears have the power to SHUT OFF THE INTERNET, which is something that it’s hard to imagine Cheney having nothing to do with.
So let me use my Considerable Media Power (cough, followed by six seconds of silence), to remind you what that was about: TV Turnoff Week was designed to trick people into accidentally talking to each other and, in a worse-case scenario, going outside to “walk down the street” or “throw a Frisbee around” or “expose their flesh to the warm, life-giving rays of Mother Sun.”
Of course no one pays attention to any of this, because the average television is now 400 inches wide, is blessed with levels of detail that can only be processed by aliens and can signal Batman, not that he’s showing up because from what I hear he is totally digging the new “90210.”
But, as you’ve no doubt already guessed, National TV Turnoff week is for Jell-O-spined sissybritcheses who would run their hemp factories with wind power and give everyone universal health care so it never really took off anywhere. Which is why the ABC thing isn’t so far-fetched.
Studies say that American children spend all of their lives in front of the television, except for those wasted few minutes every day where they’re brushing their teeth or jamming Pop-Tarts down their throats on the sprint to the bus.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is kidding itself if it thinks Katie Couric’s ever calling again, most American children watch three or more hours of TV a day. Three to four hours. To put that in perspective, do you remember how long John McCain’s RNC speech was last week? Yeah, cut that in half. THAT LONG.
The academy, on its Web site, and this is true, has taken to listing Alternative Activities people can do instead of watching TV, and I swear on Carlos Quentin’s hand that the first one is “Reading.” READING. Like a family of four would be sitting together in a living room, glued in a horrible, pulsating silence, until Batman came in with a copy of “Huck Finn” and stood there until they were done (Batman can do this when “90210” isn’t on). Their other suggestions, and I can’t even tell you how fake this isn’t, include “Play Some Games,” cook something together, share a hobby or do some writing.
Understand, I am hardly mocking the American Academy of Pediatrics, because you do NOT want to get on those people’s bad sides, because they have people who will ensure that your child never gets a Spider-Man sticker after a checkup again. But rather that ours is a planet where at least some percentage of the populace needs just that extra little kick in the pants to spark something in their brains that mumbles, “pick up book read book go.”
ABC’s promotion closes with an idea that viewers can save money on gas and help the environment by staying home and watching TV instead, which, I think, forces me into the highly uncomfortable position of siding with the energy companies, I think. I don’t know. You know how when Ohio State plays Michigan and there’s really no one to root for? It’s like that, except I’ve never wished for everyone involved with either of those teams to come down with a fiercely itchy mid-back skin rash for three months.