TV junkies: if you want a life, get a wife

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The Independent Online
This device called a V-chip that will enable adults to edit out undesirable elements from their children's television viewing is all very well, but what is needed much more drastically is a device to de-activate television sets when adults are watching something unworthy of their attention.

I am a lucky man.

I have such a device.

It is called a wife.

Often, when I am watching a political debate or a discussion programme or a forgotten black-and-white musical or a documentary on sheep diseases in Tasmania, she will come into the room and say: "What on earth are you watching this rubbish for?" And my mouth will fall open as I prepare to defend myself, but no words will come out because I suddenly realise that it is rubbish and the only reason I was watching it was curiosity. I used to use this as an excuse.

"I am just curious to see what other people watch on TV."

"Well, now you know," she says, not unkindly, and I find my hand reaching out to switch it off.

But recently I have developed some more sophisticated excuses.

"I wasn't actually watching the programme - I was just checking this video to see if it had anything on worth preserving, so I had to switch the TV on."

Sometimes they can be even more sophisticated than that.

"I was just checking to see if this video was the one you wanted keeping of Pride and Prejudice."

Shifting the blame, you see? I am watching television to safeguard your best interests.

Does it work? Well, it works to the extent that she usually leaves the room silently without making a reply, but that, of course, is one of the many ways in which women win arguments, so no, it doesn't work, and I switch off as she leaves.

Another excuse I sometimes use is work-related. The other day I was glancing at television in the morning, at that time of day when the only available programmes on television all feature studios full of concerned and angry- looking people in an audience, and a man with a microphone striding among them, usually stopping at an inoffensive-looking man and saying to him aggressively, "You've heard Mrs Chambers' experience. Can you explain how a GP like yourself could let a thing like that happen?"

And just as the GP is saying, "Well, of course I am tremendously sorry for Mrs Chambers, but what you have got to remember is that, statistically speaking, an event like this is very ..." your wife comes in and stands watching silently for a moment or two, and says: "I didn't know you were so interested in arthritis," and you say, "No, I'm not really, but I was thinking of writing a parody of this sort of programme one day, so it's quite important that I should know what they are like."

And there is a grain of truth in this, because it's quite important, even if we don't like them, that we should all know who Anne and Nick, and Judy and Richard, and people in EastEnders and Neighbours are, because otherwise we won't be able to hold our own in conversations about television (or even understand the cover of the Radio Times - I have just bought the new one which has a photo-portrait of a woman holding a child on the front, captioned "Kathy and Baby by Lord Lichfield", and I have no idea who Kathy is or why Lord Lichfield has fathered a baby by her). So then my wife gives me the benefit of the doubt and goes out silently, and I think to myself, "Why am I watching this rubbish?", and I switch off and the device has worked again - my television viewing has been curtailed.

The great thing is that after a year or two of use, the wife TV-switching- off device doesn't even have to be in the room, just somewhere in the house.

You hear a noise. You say to yourself, "Would you honestly want her to come in and find you watching this? No, you wouldn't", and you switch off.

She doesn't even have to be in the house. Maybe she is in London for the day. But you just happen to be watching Prime Minister's Question Time, and you think to yourself, "If she were here, would you have any excuse at all for watching this garbage?" and you switch off.

Yes, it actually uplifts the standard of your television viewing from more than a hundred miles away. A wife. Get one today.