M y love/hate relationship with television goes deeper than with most people. I'm always flattered when people are surprised to learn that I grew up in L.A., and I credit my parents with keeping me somewhat grounded - despite the fact that my dad was, and is, a TV writer.

When I was growing up, it seemed normal to be at the "Cheers" Christmas party and look over to see my little brother in a conga line with Kirsti Alley, just like heading out to babysit for "Cliffy the Mailman's" son was part of a day's work.

Not that my pseudo-insider status did anything to help my popularity in Junior High School. In fact, my status as "geek" plummeted to "untouchable" in eighth grade when a "Night Court" episode entitled "The Reeders Take New York" aired. My dad's friend and boss, amused by a wholesome family in Hollywood, wrote a story about the naive and dorky Reeder family that unwittingly wanders into the red light district of New York City on family vacation.

He used our real names, ages and even found actors that resembled us - so of course "Jenny Reeder" was a brace-faced, awkward teen. Just my luck - a popular girl saw the show, and for months my peers laughed until they cried as they asked me capitals of states - a game the TV Reeder family played to pass time. (It was extremely unfortunate that my class was learning all 50 capitals, so like a nerd, I usually knew the answer and would supply it. D'oh!)

But at home, ironically, our television viewing was strictly monitored because my dad considers most TV "mind garbage." We never watched TV during meals (World Series excepted) and were urged to watch sports if we had to watch TV once our homework was done. My brother and I would hear my dad's approaching footsteps and flick away from the "Incredible Hulk" or the "A-Team" to search desperately for a baseball game, so that we might have an answer when Dad demanded, "What's the score of the Dodgers game?"

I left L.A. to go to college in Syracuse, N.Y., and for many years TV had no importance in my life. Then my boyfriend, Bryan, and I formed an addiction to "The Simpsons" - unfortunately, a syndicated show that aired six nights a week. It became a happy hour ritual that led to more TV and drinking, and then maybe a televised movie with tons of commercials.

Then a few years ago, we spent a year in Taiwan, where it was pointless to have a TV because we weren't fluent in Mandarin Chinese. It was amazing how many more books we read, how much more news we got from the Internet.

When we came back to the United States, we moved to Durango and plugged back in. We pledged to avoid watching too much TV, but "The Simpsons" almost immediately broke our resolve. Then we discovered "E! True Hollywood Story" (poor Marlon Brando!) and ridiculous shows like "Trading Spaces." We even watched an episode of "Joe Millionaire" to see what all the fuss was about. Of course, we read less, and sometimes watched "Headline News" during meals.

About five months ago, we knew we had to unplug.

So we did. We even moved into a house with a concrete-embedded satellite dish (I want to dress it up) and resisted the urge. We're back to reading a ton; I even joined a book club last month. (Though I must admit that in a motel room in Lake City on a rainy day, we watched hour upon hour of "I Love the '70s" on VH1.)

I haven't seen new episodes of "Frazier" that my dad's been working on or the reality shows my brother films as a cameraman, like "Meet My Folks" or "Love Test" (though he assures me they're terrible).

Everything's been hunky dory, and we rationalized the purchase of a hot tub with "the money we save by not paying a cable bill."

But the Eye has resumed its Siren song. The Red Sox are in the playoffs at time of writing, and Bryan's from Boston. To make matters worse, a local liquor store gave us a free magnet with this year's Avalanche schedule. A few nights ago, I actually heard, "Tonight I miss TV."

The hand is writing on the wall after a mere five months, but I guess it's not so bad: with Schwarzenegger in office, his Simpsons counterpart McBane is sure to become Mayor of Springfield. How can I miss out on that?

- Jen Reeder


 

 


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