Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love TV. I live and breathe TV, and if I could eat it, I would. Nothing says ‘home’ to me more than being able to kick off the shoes at the end of a long horrid day at the office, reach for the remote control, and settle back for an evening of great entertainment with a nice bowl of pasta for company.
Of course, there are some people who say that TV is trash, but there’s a good reason why I’m not friends with them. (And besides, I have one word to say to them: “Glee”.)
It’s fair to say that TV has been my life’s bedrock. It’s seen me through the good times, the bad times and all the boogy in between. Because no one told me life was going to be this way. My job was a joke, I was broke and my love life was DOA. It was like I was always stuck in second gear, when it hadn’t been my day, my week, my month or even my year. But through it all, TV has been there for me, through thick and thin. And at night, long after I’ve turned it off and gone to bed, I’ve heard it call my name, and it feels like home.
And then a few days ago, I was trawling through HMV’s TV section, looking at all the discounted box sets and lovingly flashing back to all those wonderful TV shows of my past, now conveniently collected in one ready to view marathon. Recent favourites like Lost, CSI, House, Grey’s Anatomy, Arrested Development, Desperate Housewives, Friends and Entourage led to golden oldies like Dr Who, To the Manor Born, Keeping Up Appearances, Six Million Dollar Man and, yes, even Baywatch.
And in the midst of this homey nostalgia, it suddenly occurred to me that, in my life, I’ve watched a lot of TV.
“And let’s not count all those shows that I’ve watched in private, but would never admit in public to loving,” I later said that night to my flatmates.
“Such as?” Amanda said, ever ready to assume the road of cross-examiner.
“Well, such as American Idol, Brothers and Sisters and Ugly Betty!”
“So, what’s your point?” Saffy asked.
“It all adds up to a lot of time!” I exclaimed.
Saffy frowned. “I’m not following.”
“Look, take one show, say Lost. Each season has about 23 episodes. Make it 20 for easy maths. Each episode is 40 minutes. And the damned thing went for 6 years. So, what’s that…20 times 40, that’s uhm…”
There was a brief silence as the three of us screwed up our faces, cast our eyes up towards the ceiling and counted, fingers twitching and mouths moving soundlessly.
“4800 minutes!” I said finally, just as Amanda had admitted defeat and whipped out her phone. “And if you divide that by 60 minutes, that makes, uhm…”
“80 hours,” Amanda said.
“80 hours!” I repeated in horror.
“That’s not so bad, is it?” Saffy said. “That’s only three days in your life. I’m sure you can spare three days!”
“Saffy, that’s just one show! What about all those other shows? What about Friends? That went for ten years!”
“But that’s only 20 minutes long!” Saffy said, ever the optimist.
“Or,” said Amanda, her fingers dashing across her phone, “67 hours, assuming 20 episodes per season.”
By now, even Saffy was looking troubled, the vast accounting of her life suddenly turning into a flickering montage of TV theme songs and silly plots.
“You see what I mean?”I said. “Imagine me having this dawning realization in the middle of HMV, surrounded by all those box sets!”
“It’s like a Harry Potter moment!” Saffy said, her bosom inflating. “All your life captured in digital code!”
“How much of my life have I spent watching TV?” I asked in despair. “At least the cast of Friends each earned $1m per episode. What do I have to show for it? My God, I could have learnt a second language! I could be speaking fluent Greek by now!”
That gave everyone some pause as they thought about what they could have done with all the time they’d otherwise spent following the convoluted plots of Alias.
“I might have made partner,” Amanda said.
“And I’m sure I would have found a husband,” Saffy murmured, the weight of her immense tragedy causing her to slouch forward in the sofa where her hand automatically found the TV remote control. She clicked on the TV and instantly, our faces were bathed in the flickering light of a commercial.