Thursday, May 26, 2011

Reality Bites

Now that the American Idol season is over, the inevitable question arises: ‘What are we going to do with our lives now?’

Some of you out there may be struck by the incredible shallowness of the question. After all, there are bigger, more important issues that deserve our attention. Such as what will happen to Nikita’s vendetta against Division? Is there life after nationals for the William McKinley High kids? Will Meredith’s marriage survive her sabotage of Derek’s Alzheimer clinical trials? Who’s moving into Wisteria Lane? When will the kids on 90210 graduate? Is Bill Compton going to lead a vampire revolt to become the next king of Louisiana or will Sookie come to her senses and sleep with Eric? And speaking of Sookie, is she really a fairy?

These questions haunt me.

“You are so weird, you know that?” Amanda said the other morning when I was moaning about the empty nights stretching head of me, now that all my favourite TV programmes have ended their seasons. “You spend way too much time watching TV!”

Saffy later said that Amanda’s hypocrisy was staggering. “You’d think that while you were quote wasting your life unquote, she was out there discovering a vaccine for cancer when she was right by our side every night watching the same shows! And, excuse me,” she added, drawing breath, “but didn’t she cry like a baby when Lauren sang her last song to her mother on ‘American Idol’? I mean, seriously!”

When I was eight, I badgered my parents to get me a TV for Christmas. “It’s a valuable learning tool!” I argued. “Jack learnt the alphabet and how to count watching ‘Sesame Street’! And I’ve learnt all my biology watching David Attenborough documentaries! Think of all the money you’ve saved on tuition fees!”

My parents had huge misgivings about getting a TV for an eight year old, but then my sister craftily added that our Aunt Hwei-Ling got our cousin Michael an 18-inch for his birthday and that sealed the deal. “I can’t stand that mother of his!” our mother said uncharitably of her own sister. “Always rubbing her millions in our faces!”

Which is how I ended up with a lovely colour 13-inch screen in the bedroom I shared with my brother. “We should get one for the bathroom, too!” Michelle said, demonstrating at a very early age, a precocious talent for consumerism.

While other kids were out climbing trees, sucking up fresh air and learning how to hotwire cars, we were holed up in the bedroom. We told our parents we were watching National Geographic nature programmes (“There’s a great show on sharks by Jacques Cousteau tonight!” Michelle lied to my parents), but really, we were filling our minds with Grade A Trash.

We watched everything. Melrose Place. Baywatch. LA Law. Hill Street Blues. ER. Long before I took my first trip to America, I learnt all about the land of the free on the box and when I finally arrived in New York, I was so disappointed that everything was so clean and that I didn’t witness a single high speed car chase. I went to Times Square and stood around hopefully waiting for a prostitute to accost me.

And now that I’m all grown up, I find myself still deep in my love affair with television. As Saffy recently pointed out during a particularly gripping moment in ‘True Blood’, it’s just like reading a book, but without the tedious effort of having to turn the pages. “And I want to have Eric Northman’s baby,” she added, completely derailing her own conversation.

Meanwhile, I’ve travelled the world watching TV. And saved a lot of money, too. I’ve been all over America. I may never visit Seattle, but thanks to ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, I don’t feel like I’ve missed much. Because of ‘Nikita’, I’ve even been inside the CIA headquarters at Langley. During the ‘American Idol’ auditions, I dropped in on Boston, Mississippi and Houston. ‘The Amazing Race’ has shown me the insides of a school in Mumbai, the top of an Austrian mountain and a dirt poor African village.

“I love TV,” Saffy declared recently at a dinner party. The entire table went deadly quiet.

“That’s interesting,” said the VP of a major bank sitting next to her in a tone that Saffy later said made her want to push him down some stairs.

Saffy’s bosom inflated. “I could watch TV all day! My life ambition is to star in my own reality programme! It’ll be called ‘Twin Peaks’! Because of my breasts. Get it?”

Saffy says her programme has ratings winner written all over it.

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