Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Writers & TV

How much television do Americans watch every day? According to Nielsen, most people in the United States watch more than four hours of TV every day, for a total of 28 hours per week. That’s like a part-time job. The average amount of time spent reading, by contrast, is measured in minutes—which is disheartening to most writers.

I’m not sure exactly how much television I watch every day, but I know it’s not four hours. Except for the time the A.C. Nielsen people drafted me, I’ve never kept close track of my TV viewing, but I do have my own non-scientific measurement. I haven’t come up with a catchy name for it yet—I guess you could call it the Unfamiliarity Measure. I took a look at "TV Guide’s" list of the 100 most popular television shows, and I’ve seen 12 of the 100 shows listed. Which, I know, makes me kinda weird in a society filled with people who feel sitting mindlessly in front of the television deserves almost 30 hours per week of their time. This means that I have a lot of conversations that go like this:

People are enthusiastically discussing aspects of the latest reality TV show or murder-mystery cop series, while I listen without making any comments. Then they remember I’m sitting there: “What about you, Terrisa? Don’t you think they should vote Fancy Franny off the island?”

Me: I don’t watch that show.

TV Watcher: Really? Never?

Me: Never.

TV Watcher: You must be watching “Ridiculous Suburban Tales”—or, I know, you used to work for the police department, so you must be watching “Armed and Stupid.” They all come on at the same time.

Me: Uh, sorry. Don’t know any of those. Haven’t seen ‘em.

TV Watcher: Never? Really? The person is now staring at me like I have grown a second head.

I might as well say I’ve never seen an airplane, or that I still have a party-line telephone. It’s incomprehensible to many that there are people who do not spend the evening in front of the television. If you’re a writer, however, I’d urge you to think about the time you're spending in front of the Brain Sucker—if you gave up half of your viewing hours (assuming you are taking in the full 28 hours per week), can you imagine how much writing you could do, or how many books you could read? And if you want other people to read your work, well, I’d say it’s a good idea to return the favor. Step away from the TV, fellow writer. Just step away.

Photo courtesy of Neil Anderson