It might not be nice, but I often judge people by the television shows that they watch while exercising at the gym. Each machine is equipped with its own TV, and I find the programming choices that people make to be utterly fascinating. Not only are these people watching these programs, but they are also willing to let everyone in the gym know what they are watching. Under these circumstances, I would expect people to be more discerning about their choices, but from what I have seen, they are not.
Today I used an elliptical machine that was flanked by two identical machines on the left and one on the right. After a brief examination of the television screens attached to these machines, I felt like I had hit the trifecta in terms of programming choices.
Directly to my right, a woman was watching Whitney Houston’s appearance on Oprah. Whitney appeared to be in the midst of an emotional interview, and it was followed by a musical performance that had Oprah waving her arms in the air and singing along with the music in an expressive display normally reserved for a Baptist Church on Easter Sunday.
Why anyone would have any interest in Whitney Houston’s life, especially as told by Whitney herself, is beyond me. With almost one hundred channels available, was this really the best that this woman could do?
To my left, a man was tuned to Glenn Beck’s program. I know that Glenn Beck exists, and I’ve always assumed that someone must be watching his show (despite his loss of almost eighty advertisers), but I’ve also assumed that the only people watching him are lunatics, zealots, and idiots. Or more likely, all three. But the man exercising next to me looked completely normal and well adjusted.
Yet he was watching Glenn Beck.
Two machines over, another woman was watching what appeared to be a biopic of sorts on the Kardashians, a family who I was just tweeting about earlier this week. I become aware of their existence on Sunday thanks to some supermarket tabloid covers and was pleased to realize that I had no idea who these people are, much to the dismay of at least two co-workers.
When you limit your media intake to a bevy of carefully-chosen podcasts, the occasional newspaper, a handful of trusted blogs, The New York Times iPhone application, a limited number of television shows (all commercial-free thanks to TiVo), and televised sporting events, you miss things like the Kardashians, Balloon Boy, and the most recent machinations on Survivor.
And you’re the better for it. Balloon Boy’s balloon had been on the ground for two days before I even caught wind of the story.
I’m still not sure why these Kardashians are famous, or even how many Kardashians there are, but this woman was watching a show about their lives. An E True Hollywood Story, I think, or something like it. I couldn’t be sure. But presumably some true-life story.
Not knowing who these Kardashians are, this is the most difficult programming choice upon which to pass judgment, but I did anyway. I can only assume that the Kardashians offer little to society except for meaningless drama and inane controversy, so to spend an hour watching the story of their lives, whoever the hell they are, strikes me as foolish, wasteful, stupid or insane.
Yet this woman was willing to devote an hour of her life to this show and allow others to watch her watching it.
As for me, I was listening to an iTunes genius playlist based upon Dire Straits’ Walk of Life and watching a basketball game on ESPN 2. Judge me if you’d like, but as far as I can tell, I’ve got Whitney Houston, a bunch of Kardashians, and Glenn Beck beat by a mile.
I like to think that I subscribe to the philosophy of Ricky Roma, from the film Glengarry Glen Ross:
“I subscribe to the law of contrary public opinion… If everyone thinks one thing, then I say, bet the other way…”
If everyone is fascinated by Glenn Beck, Whitney Houston and the Kardashians, they must all suck.