I had forgotten about it but my father once reminisced about finding elementary school-aged me habitually â€œwatchingâ€ TV with my back turned to the set.
He said I explained that I could imagine more interesting scenes in my mind.
The real demonstration of my creativity was that I could conjure a more tactful response than â€œHow about springing for a color TV, Ebenezer?â€
I still have trouble giving the boob tube my undivided attention.
My wife and I dearly enjoy certain programs; they are not just background noise but our busy lifestyle forces us to multitask. In my case, I scroll through newspaper PDFs, outline a column or answer email while casting glances at the screen.
Yet several recent trends make even the most visually boring programs a hassle to take for granted.
Perhaps the most innocuous is the unexpected transition to a scene where characters are conversing in American Sign Language (ASL).
Truly, it is heartwarming that the hearing-impaired are no longer marginalized as nonexistent but when I recognize a conspicuous silence and scramble to rewind to play catch-up, itâ€™s just one more example of Hollywood guilt-tripping me.
(â€œYou canâ€™t dance like celebrities on â€˜Dancing with the Starsâ€™ or sing like contestants on â€˜The Voiceâ€™ or spend money like the clowns on C-SPAN. You didnâ€™t even learn ASL. Or marry a doctor who knows ASL. Or give me grandchildren who used ASL in the delivery roomâ€¦â€)
Next are the shows where characters perfectly capable of speaking English suddenly go all Tower of Babel and subject us to a mind-numbing string of donâ€™t-blink-or-youâ€™ll-miss-it subtitles. Perhaps the writers are practicing for their own travels. (â€œWhere is the library? Do they have cocaine in the library?â€)
Most annoying is the unheralded shift to characters engaging in a rapid-fire texting marathon, with pivotal messages that are readable only with an IMAX home theater.
Yes, texting is ubiquitous in 21st-century society and writers are trying to â€œkeep it realâ€ but griping about the skyrocketing cost of streaming service subscriptions is ubiquitous in 21st-century society as well.
No one feels compelled to put those sentiments into the mouth of a dopey dad or hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold. Weird.
Also, the attempt to keep programs cutting-edge and relevant will seem merely quaint in a few years when we all have brain implants and communicate telepathically. (â€œWhat are they doing in this old show?â€ â€œI think they called it texting â€¦on an intelligent-phone. Sheâ€™s probably inviting her friends to buy Pet Rocks and churn butter.â€)
I know all the writers, actors, directors, set designers and wardrobe coordinators think there is a social contract that we are obligated to keep jumbo-size Visine handy and scrutinize every blankety-blank frame of every program but that â€œall or nothingâ€ volley against multitasking may push more viewers to turn off the set and focus on their pets, reading or getting a weekly colonoscopy.
Whatâ€™s a good compromise? Maybe programs could have a warning siren when there is about to be a jarring change from a run-of-the-mill conversation. Not an Amber Alert, but more of a Pretentious Artiste Alert.
(We need a separate warning for â€œStop sorting your grandmotherâ€™s recipe cards! This inane chitchat will be interrupted by your favorite character getting creamed by a hit-and-run driver. Again.â€)
I wish my father was here to help. He probably even knew â€œBah, humbug!â€ in Spanish.
Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page â€œTyreeâ€™s Tyrades.â€