Wednesday, April 25
Those Puritan lunatics from Washington are at it again, trying to wreck your life.
We’re talking about TV Turnoff Week, that insipid annual exercise in which a bunch of cathode-ray Carrie Nations attempt to convince you that life without Felicity, without The King of Queens , without The Edge with Paula Zahn is a life worth living.
That is such a crock. But the TV Turnoff people keep at it, as they have every spring since 1995, trying to sway us to click off the remote and go outside and … read … or play with kids. Gross !
This year, though, these Beltway nancies had the nerve to kick off TV Turnoff Week on Monday, April 23, during the beginning of May sweeps. Some timing! If you take their lousy advice, you won’t see Winona Ryder try to revive her career on Friends, or this week’s humongously crucial Survivor installment, or Sally Field (remember her ?) re-aggravate the docs on ER . And you certainly won’t find out if Dawson finally bags some booty on Dawson’s Creek .
Furious, NYTV phoned TV Turnoff Week headquarters in the nation’s capital to find out what was up.
“We pick our week regardless of the schedule in television,” said a cheerful TV Turnoff rep named Jennifer Kurz. “I think that’s important, because clearly the point is not what’s on television, it’s what’s not on television, and actually living life regardless of what happens to be on that week.”
See, that’s where you are so wrong, Jen! Television is very much about what’s on , whether it’s B.S.B. showing up unannounced at Total Request Live , or Senator Tom Daschle cooling with Tim Russert on Meet the Press , or Joel Grey guest-starring on the season finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer .
“According to TV people,” Ms. Kurz said, letting “TV people” flick off her tongue like “lepers,” “there is always going to be something that you have to watch.”
So what the hell are people supposed to do during TV Turnoff Week if they go cold turkey and drop Xena et al. from their diet? (Please, please, please don’t say White Teeth. )
“Reading,” said Ms. Kurz. “Going outdoors, hiking, bicycling, fishing, joining neighborhood groups.”
Joining neighborhood groups ? The mind reels. Eliminate Blind Date from one’s life and replace it with a Sunday afternoon cleaning up dog parks with the Brotherhood of Park Slope Leaf Rakers? That has to be ….
“I know,” said Ms. Kurz, anticipating the grief. ” So Goody Two Shoes.”
Really, the only thing worse than the recommendation to turn off the TV for an entire week is the suggestion that doing so will somehow make the world a better place. “We expect crime would go down if people turned off their TV’s,” Ms. Kurz said.
But is there really a direct correlation? Has anyone ever checked out the crowd that watches the Nash Bridges repeat on WCBS Sunday nights after the 11 o’clock news? Do we really want those people wandering the streets?
Then came the stats. Ms. Kurz said that the average child in America will spend more time in front of the television this year than in school. Kids average three hours of viewing per day, adults four. (C’mon! The adults have to watch The Point with Greta Van Susteren !) When you add that up, Ms. Kurz said, by age 65, you will have spent nine years of your life watching television.
Again, let’s examine. Nine years does sound like a lot of time in front of the tube, but consider other life activities. At NYTV’s current rate, he will spend 17 years of his life commuting on the 4 train, 11 years in the Sunday-morning line at Montague Street Bagels, nine years trying to convince his Aunt Claire that he really tried to meet her for lunch two weekends ago ….
“Television definitely contributes to our overweight and obesity epidemics,” Ms. Kurz added. “If you look at it 10 to 20 years ago, the number of kids who are obese has doubled.”
You know, these social critics always want it both ways. First some people tell us we’re all gonna inhale laxatives and grip the porcelain because we’re desperate to look like the cast of Ally McBeal ; now other people tell us that TV makes us all a nation of fatties.
So feel the burn. Ms. Kurz said that if you follow the strict standards of TV Turnoff Week, you shouldn’t turn on your set for the entire week, and that pretty much takes you out of the culture stream until Sunday, April 29, at 11:59 p.m.
And if you’re signing up, no cheatin ‘! Not even for Sesame Street , America’s No. 1 unpaid baby-sitter. The TV Turnoff people really have it in for Sesame Street , apparently. “After the kids have gotten used to reading or learning their numbers with giant Muppets jumping around, it makes it really difficult on teachers to keep their attention,” said Ms. Kurz.
Well, this situation has an obvious remedy: more Muppet costumes in public schools!
“No, not really,” Ms. Kurz said. “That’s not going to last. In order to really learn and study, you need to basically have a good attention span and be able to focus and think. And television is completely antithetical to that.”
Maybe. But before we go, let’s turn our little camera on Ms. Kurz–who, let’s emphasize, was a good sport about all of our inane interrogation–just for a second. She said she’s around 25 years old and doesn’t have a TV. She’s never seen The Sopranos . She never curled up in a Polarfleece blanket wearing bunny slippers, cradling a crumpled box of Kleenex and hanging on to see if Angela would kiss Jordan on My So-Called Life . (She has seen Friends, but found it “pretty mindless.”)
So how does she, um, survive ? Really. If you’re under 35 years old in this country, what the hell is left to talk about once you cut out all the cutesy, ironic musings about TV, sugar-coated cereals and the Thompson Twins?
“It’s really not a problem,” Ms. Kurz insisted. “Clearly, my friends know I don’t watch much television, and actually most of them don’t, either. So it doesn’t frequently come up.”
Sounds like a fun bunch. So what happens if Ms. Kurz meets somebody and goes over to their place and finds a big, fat … 45-inch Mitsubishi?
“What they do on their own time is fine,” she said. “But I do get kind of annoyed if I’m over at a friend’s house and they want to watch television.”
Wow, you must be a barrel of laughs, Jennifer.
“I am, though!” Ms. Kurz protested. “That’s the great thing.”
Yes it is. Tonight, as NYTV’s new favorite pop-culture Luddite, Jennifer Kurz, probably opts to do something wondrously upstanding, like host a charity donkey-basketball game for a local elementary school, you, feeling like a mutant, pathetically fall off the wagon, order chicken wings and tune in to Felicity . [WPIX, 11, 9 p.m.]
Thursday, April 26
You can’t find a more buttoned-down local morning news show than WNBC’s Today in New York , the No. 1 program of its kind in the city. Hosts Maurice DuBois and Jane Hanson have traditionally adhered to the deadpan, Joe Friday approach, seldom breaking from their stream of serious headlines and trenchant interviews for lame jokes or slap-happy chitchat.
Recently, however, there has been a noticeable creep toward jigginess in the staid Today in New York franchise. With an eye toward the ever-important May ratings period, WNBC has begun running some fairly lighthearted TINY promos plugging upcoming spring segments. While these peppy WNBC ads don’t approach the cockamamie brilliance of Jim Ryan and Dave Price’s goofy spots for Fox 5′s Good Day, New York , they do represent a mild departure for TINY .
So does the recent hiring of a few stylish new faces to bolster TINY ‘s sweeps lineup. Last week, WNBC announced it was bringing aboard entertainment reporter Rebecca Gomez, Extra correspondent Billy Bush and beachwear Aphrodite Shoshanna Lonstein to contribute reports to the morning broadcast.
Shoshanna invades New York morning TV! To do beachwear reports, no less! Attention, Lynda Lopez of the WB 11 Morning News : That’s what you call a shot across the bow!
WNBC news director Dianne Doctor acknowledged that TINY is “adding some spice,” but insisted that it wasn’t a reaction to its competition. “I don’t believe that just because you are No. 1, you can become static,” said Ms. Doctor. “You always want to try new things and make improvements.”
Still, there is a clear tilt toward babe-ification in New York morning news, a trend embodied by Ms. Lopez and the Girls!Girls!Girls! (and a guy) of the WB 11 Morning News. They’re certainly seeing that shift over in WB-land. “I notice that morning news in general is lightening up, and if that has anything to do with us, that’s a fantastic compliment,” said WB 11 Morning News executive producer Wil Surratt.
Yeah, yeah, we know, Edward R. Murrow’s rolling in his grave. But that guy never met Shoshanna! This morning, Today in New York goes for an exclusive tour of the opening of that thing everyone’s yapping about with Jackie O.’s old clothes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. [WNBC, 4, 5 a.m.]
Friday, April 27
The gang at Comedy Central wrote NYTV a nice note after this space had some not-so-nice things to say about the debut of the Matt Stone-Trey Parker Presidential gagfest, That’s My Bush!
“Judging by your initial reaction to the first two episodes of That’s My Bush! , perhaps you weren’t a fan of the series right off the bat,” the note read. “We’d like to give you another opportunity to view the show, as we really believe that the series is just starting to hit its stride.” The note came with a tape of the April 25 TMB! episode, which NYTV agreeably popped into the ol’ VCR.
How was it? Well, let’s just say that the “hit its stride” proclamation is … let’s see, ah , the word is … crap. There is no stride; this show’s got two gimp feet and rides around on a Rascal. Judging from this allegedly improved episode, TMB! is destined to remain bland and butt-dumb, a real stinker disappointment, especially considering the evil genius of Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker’s other opus, South Park .
Keep the nice notes coming, though! Tonight on Comedy Central, the increasingly highbrow Daily Show . We’re all waiting for the Lingua Franca profile of Jon Stewart. [CMDY, 45, 11 p.m.]
Saturday, April 28
Boy, the New York Yankees appear to be pulling out all the stops to promote 61* , the new HBO movie about Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle directed by No. 1 Yankees fan Billy Crystal. Mr. Crystal, a clubhouse mascot who is besties-for-life with Yankees skipper Joe Torre, threw out the first ball at the Red Sox-Yankees tilt at the Stadium on Saturday, April 21.
But nothing topped the 61* promo at Sunday’s Yankees game, when brand-new starter Ted Lilly traipsed up to the mound, fresh from the farm in Columbus, wearing the number … 61!
As the late Mel Allen would have said, “How about that?!” Mr. Lilly and his HBO-billboard backside went out and pitched a whale of a game, whiffing 10 Red Sox in a 4-3 Yankees win.
But it’s apparently just a fluke. The number, that is. A Yankees spokesperson denied any link between Mr. Crystal’s film and Mr. Lilly’s number, which was, yup, assigned by the team. “It was just kind of a coincidence,” the spokesperson said.
Alright. But who wants to explain Luis Sojo’s Moulin Rouge stockings?
Tonight, the gang at HBO–still hitting the smelling salts after gazillion-dollar employee Lennox Lewis got knocked flat on his keister–premieres Mr. Crystal’s 61* . [HBO, 32, 9 p.m.]
Sunday, April 29
Not everyone likes bikini-wearing chicks eating larvae, you know! Increasingly youth-skewing CBS returns to its geriatric roots tonight with a live presentation of On Golden Pond , starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Pass the Metamucil! [WCBS, 2, 9 p.m.]
Monday, April 30
With its make-or-break summer flick Pearl Harbor on the horizon, Disney, er, ABC whets America’s appetite for overblown Michael Bay extravaganzas with Armageddon , a “film” that is essentially a two-hour Aerosmith video. [WABC, 7, 8 p.m.]
Tuesday, May 1
Tonight on TNT, Rocky IV . In this installment of the pugilistic opus, the champ gets punched so silly he thinks that 10 years later, people will pay $9 to see him as a glamorous race-car driver. [TNT, 3, 8 p.m.]