INSOMNIA, depression, obesity, illiteracy and profligate spending - these are the damaging effects of watching television according to TV- Free America, the pressure group behind National TV Turnoff Week, which is scheduled to take place here this month. Grave consequences indeed, but surely a small price to pay when faced with the alternative: a world without television.

And what a nightmare vision that is. Imagine the scene: you arrive home from work, pour yourself a stiff drink, slump exhausted on to the sofa, look wearily in the direction of the far corner of the room... and there's nothing there! Your box of delights has disappeared. So what on earth are you supposed to do?

I suppose for a little while you might just sit there and twiddle your thumbs, perhaps gazing around the room in a slightly bemused kind of way. But that could get quite boring quite quickly, so what next? The obvious thing to do would be to talk to your partner, who's probably sitting next to you, twiddling his or her thumbs and gazing around the room in a slightly bemused kind of way.

But what to talk about? Clearly the disappearance of your television set would be high on the agenda. After that, things get a little more sticky. Normally, conversation of the "guess what happened at the office today" variety takes place during commercial breaks or the longueurs which crop up as a matter of course during, say, Classic Trains, Ainsley's Meals In Minutes or indeed just about every programme on Channel 5. By its very nature, such conversation is abbreviated and is accorded the scant attention it deserves.

The obvious alternative would therefore seem to be to emulate the days before television existed. That was when families gathered around the piano and had a good old sing-song. Admittedly you may well not have a piano, but you could always get one. And then you could have piano lessons, which might take several weeks. But even after all that, another problem arises. What songs do you sing? This is the Nineties, after all, and contemporary trends in music don't really give much scope for domestic performance. Is it even worth attempting, for instance, a homely rendition of 'Firestarter' by The Prodigy? Probably not.

So it looks like a game of cards could be in order, or perhaps it's time to dust off that Monopoly board. And what fantastic fun that will be as the male competitive streak rears its ugly head with the inevitable result that one of you ends up going directly to the spare room and you can forget all about passing Go for some time.

Did someone mention books? I think one of the ideas behind these TV Turnoff weeks is that we'll all read books instead of watching television and become cultured and well-balanced individuals. But who has the energy to read a book after a day's work? If we all came home, sat down and opened a book, the entire nation would be comatose by 8pm. Just think of the defence implications.

But it isn't just at home that a lack of TV could blight your life. There's the office to consider. What on earth will you find to talk about, considering that the staple topic of conversation each morning is the previous evening's big match or the latest developments in Coronation Street/EastEnders/Brookside? Are you to entertain your colleagues with a blow-by-blow account of your latest whist drive?

And on a less selfish note, there are others to think of. If television no longer existed, what would become of all those dysfunctional show-offs who make their living appearing on it? Two words especially come to mind here:

Anthea Turner. What would be the career implications for her? It scarcely bears thinking about. There can't be too many potential employers out there who value the ability to speak and smile at the same time at the expense of all others. (Insert your own Tony Blair joke here if you must.)

But perhaps Anthea and the rest of us needn't start worrying just yet. As a welcome counter to the anti-TV types, the latest edition of New Scientist brings news of an experiment which showed that battery chickens exposed to television grew quicker on less food, laid larger eggs more regularly and appeared to be happier than their television-deprived cousins.

And that was after watching it for just half an hour a day. And presumably without any American do-gooders rattling their cages.

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