Viewing Exercise

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This is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore watching television for KCRW and stricken by my recent birthday.

Uhhhh! This birthday, never mind which one, has pushed me to tear my gaze from the TV screen and take a hard look at myself -- and at how I spend a major part of every day. Which is watching lots of TV, then reaching for my laptop to write about it.

Jeez, I'm a real couch potato. I was born in Georgia, but Idaho should claim me as a native son.

That's why on this birthday, I pulled myself off the sofa and made a new year's resolution to hit the streets and run. Regularly. As in, exercise. Outdoors. In running shoes. Getting sweaty.

But ... am I really gonna stick with it?

This has been an ongoing struggle all my life. "Turn off that TV and go outside and play!" my mom used to scream, like millions of other moms over the past half-century. But it took more than her badgering to get me to budge.

Of course, TV itself takes an occasional stab at motivating young viewers to choose healthier lifestyles. But since the bulk of TV programming is widely thought to rot kids' brains, rot their teeth and make them fat, a do-healthy-stuff kind of message from your TV strikes me as being, well, outright contradictory.

Next Sunday, Nickelodeon begins its annual health challenge for kids called "Let's Just Go Play." A six-month campaign, it will challenge kids to make four small health-related changes in their everyday life. (Uhhh, how about one BIG one: Like, kick the TV habit.)

Sometimes television also tries to get adults to shape up. Any number of TV shows await you with aerobics and yoga regimens. Which is nothing new. When I was a kid, TV's Jack LaLanne was the fitness king for a nation of housewives.

But for me, even then in my prepubescent stage, there was a far more exhilarating trainer on the scene. I felt unaccustomed stirrings when I watched Debbie Drake, whose daily 15-minute exercise show claimed to target the lady of the house but seemed far more suited to viewers of my gender.

You see, Debbie Drake was a dishy Texas blonde whose bustline, according to a 1961 Time magazine article, measured 38 1/2 inches, squeezed into a leotard that had a prim little collar meant to lend an air of decorum to all her stretching and deep breathing.

What I'm trying to say is, no red-blooded male, not even a boy, would have considered distracting himself with calisthenics during Debbie's show. She earned our full, sedentary concentration.

Well, Debbie Drake's long gone.

I'm still staring at the screen.

But I'm not alone, and for everybody hooked on TV, the plucky activists at TV Turnoff Network have begun their yearly intervention.

Today they launch their annual crusade to help kids and families break the grip of TV tyranny. It's called TV Turnoff Week and goes through Sunday, a sort of just-say-no initiative, a sort of Outward Bound adventure for discovering what life has to offer beyond TV and computer screens.

I won't be participating. I've got a job to do. Still, I wish them well.

And as I look forward to the year ahead, I'm pledging to be a bit more active... to get a little more exercise than hoisting my remote... to -- oops! Gotta run!

Watching television for KCRW, this is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore.