Nielsen asked me to keep a written diary of all the television I watched for seven days in May (beginning Thursday May 15 and ending Wednesday May 21). In exchange, they sent me four $1 bills. It was easy money: I watched one hour of the Preakness coverage on Saturday, plus 8 minutes of local news that evening… Then, Sunday morning, I watched the last 3 minutes of the Chris Matthews Show and all of Meet the Press. And that’s it. One week: 2 hours and 11 minutes in front of the idiot box.
Who won Dancing with the Stars? Beats me. Who is the American Idol? I’m pretty sure it’s one of those two guys named Chris. (It’s hard to escape the vast wasteland of “reality shows” — unless you also unplug the Internet, throw out the radio, bring earplugs to work and wear blinders when you walk through the checkout aisle at Wal-Mart.)
When I die, my tombstone epitaph won’t read: “Frank Lockwood — “Wishes he’d watched more television.”
No, I don’t want to waste my prime time on Prime Time.
I read today that Frank Rich of the New York Times is now a consultant for HBO, and has agreed that he’ll never mention the premium television station in his Gray Lady culture column to avoid potential conflicts of interest.
Jack Shafer of Slate Magazine questions whether it’s possible to be a culture guru if you ignore Home Box Office: “If Frank Rich’s column is really supposed to be about the ‘intersection of culture and news,’ denying him references to the HBO canon would be like forcing him to write with only his pinky fingers. He’d still get his columns out, but would they be any good?”
My hunch is that Frank Rich can come up with a decent column on a regular basis without mentioning HBO. He might even be able to do it without mentioning cable television. We canceled cable at our house back in 2002. It’s the best decision we ever made.
It’s only been a handicap three times — on those days when I was covering the Kentucky Derby. Celebrity watching is a big deal at Churchill Downs, and a reporter is at a disadvantage if he can’t identify the stars. Here’s how I got by. I would watch the non-rich and the non-famous and when they gawked and gasped, I’d whisper, “Who is that?”
“It’s Toby Keith,” they’d stammer.
What kind of music?
“Who is it,” I’d ask.
“It’s Tara Reid.”
Still drawing a blank here.
“She was in American Pie…”
The movie, not the Don McLean song…
I’d have a hard time picking B-movie starlets and reality show celebrities out of a police lineup. But Tim Russert? Chris Matthews? Howard Kurtz? No problem…