This is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore watching television for KCRW and, with Valentine's Day nigh, I must say I'm feeling the love... love for TV!
Oh, I feel other things for TV, too. It's not all hearts-and-flowers. But even after all this time, we're still cozy, TV and me. And with that in mind, I worry about the people on TV -- just how much do they love this medium they're such a vital part of?
I have a feeling not much. I suspect most of the people you watch on TV don't watch much TV. Which began to dawn on me in the course of interviewing lots of TV stars over the years.
While I seldom asked them outright to describe their TV-watching habits -- what am I, Nielsen? -- I realized if the subject came up they routinely would say that, other than a token indulgence like sports or Seinfeld, they didn't watch TV. Just couldn't fit it into their schedule.
Now, according to Nielsen, the average American watches four hours and 48 minutes of TV each day. This means all of us are carrying an extra load to make up for the folks who, when they get home from making shows to fill our free time, fill their free time with other things.
Never mind if they were telling me the truth, I just think it's an odd message they're putting out: de facto contempt for television and for the audience.
Out of hundreds of actors I've come in contact with, I can remember only three gung-ho TV viewers.
Back in 1997 I interviewed Ed McMahon, who happily shared with me his night-by-night program preferences.
Then, recently, I found two other zealots.
Even with classy shows like The Office and his current HBO comedy Extras to his credit, Ricky Gervais remains a lifelong TV junkie. On any average workday, he told me last month, "I'm at home at 6 o'clock in my pajamas watching television."
And just a couple of weeks ago I talked to Sarah Silverman, the gifted comic now starring on Comedy Central's Sarah Silverman Program, and I don't know why but I asked her what she watches on TV. She eagerly replied, "What don't I watch?!" and spun off a list ranging from high-minded drama to cheesy reality. And then, when she brought up the NBC sitcom 30 Rock, which I'm crazy about, we traded shtick by Tracy Morgan and Alec Baldwin from its past episodes...like a couple of fans.
You know, from the start, TV has not only been looked at, but also looked down on as a guilty pleasure and a waste of time. It's been demeaned as wires and lights in a box. Chewing gum for the eyes. And a vast wasteland.
Well, those who dominated the TV landscape should know what you and I know: TV isn't a wasteland. Not these days.
So why would these people who are literally the face of television seem, even if implicitly, to be apologizing for it?
Does an author never read? Don't musicians go to concerts and listen to other musicians' CDs? In what other industry, even those that make Silly String or beef jerky, do the principal players stay so far aloof from the wares?
Isn't it a strain for these actors to be on TV while holding it as arm's length?
I think more actors should stretch themselves by taking on a role many seem to resist: that of couch potato. I think it's time they vegged out, opened their eyes, and shared the love.
Watching television for KCRW and telling my TV, "I'm happy to be stuck with you," this is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore.