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THREE ON THE TOWN

MIXED SIGNALS : And You Thought Educational Programming Was Just for Kids

April 25, 1993|Patt Morrison

It's damned unfair, the way people go on haranguing kids about watching too much TV. Give kids more educational programming, they snivel. More Barney. More "Storytime." Less new "Untouchables."

They might as well scold kids for taking driver's ed or learning to balance a checkbook because TV-- real TV--teaches survival skills.

If there are any kids reading this column, I want them to think of it as an instructive visit to the jail, to see all the stuff I failed to learn because I didn't watch enough TV.

And now I'm paying the price.

For starters, I don't have any inkling about how to fire a semiautomatic weapon with one hand while hoisting myself into the cab of a runaway truck with the other. I can't steer a Mercedes around an exploding gas station on two wheels or disarm a Ninja warrior with a set of car keys. I wouldn't know where to begin if I had to carry a body to the trunk of my car and dump it down a darkened ravine without dislocating my back.

And there's no telling how many times I've lost out on a job because I didn't know that suitable attire for the interview is a single-button jacket with no blouse and a little skirt up to there.

A babe in the urban woods, that's me.

Look at "America's Most Wanted." I don't. Yet not a week seems to go by that some sharp-eyed, TV-educated 7-Eleven clerk doesn't win the gratitude of the nation for dropping a dime on a mass murderer who stops in for a Big Gulp and pack of flip-top Marlboros.

Me? I'll probably drop into a mini-market someday and wonder why everyone else just rolled under the Chee-tos rack, and that'll be all she wrote. I'll be blown away between the grape bubble gum and the travel-sized No More Tears baby shampoo by some guy everyone else recognized as the poster boy for Uzi.

But I don't have to get killed to show my ignorance of TV and its special rules of etiquette. I live it every day, in endless humilitating ways:

How should I react if Geraldo asks me how long I've been wearing men's underwear? How am I supposed to know that I should laugh and not call my lawyer when the video my neighbor secretly shot of me practicing stem turns on my back-yard dichondra wins a prize on "America's Funniest Home Videos"?

Why doesn't the earth just swallow me up and get it over with?

Most parents look out for their kids' welfare. But mine let me go on reading "Classics Illustrated" while my friends were watching "Gilligan's Island." So now the only celebrities I recognize are dead writers. Hell, I used to carry Rupert Brooke's picture in my wallet when I was in junior high. Now tell me the odds of running into him ordering a double decaf with a twist at the Farmer's Market.

Not long ago in Washington, Marlo Thomas supposedly tried to butt in line for a soda. It was her opening-night party for "Six Degrees of Separation," and the bartender ordered her to go to the end of the line. Marlo Thomas!

Poor man. After that, he probably canceled his subscription to the New Republic, locked himself in his apartment and began watching cable reruns of "That Girl."

Take it from me, kids. In L.A., this stuff matters. Miss a week of "Entertainment Tonight" and you risk being thrown into a social gulag. Imagine asking some soap star how the show's going, not knowing his character was killed off last week.

Or not knowing the man is a star in the first place. I've done that. At a flea market, I once asked some guy about the price of a vase. All I got was a steely stare and horrified hisses from other people that he didn't work there--he's on a prime-time drama I'd never heard of. Why don't I just ask the Pope what aisle the condoms are on?

Kids, if anyone tries to tell you you're turning into a sponge-brained marshmallow butt in front of the TV, show them this.

It's my contribution to society. I wouldn't want a child of mine growing up not knowing which Ninja Turtle painted "The School of Athens" and which one sculpted the Pieta.

Oh, Lord, I'm doing it again, aren't I?

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