Monday, April 30, 2012

BC2012: A TV Guide to Life by Jeff Alexander

Subtitled "How I Learned Everything I Needed to Know from Television", this book is a riot. Alexander, who writes for Television Without Pity, extracts various life lessons from TV shows (mostly sitcoms and dramas) about school, friendship, parenting, crime, medicine, technology, and other topics. I'm far from a TV addict (these days I watch 5-6 hours per week), but I still laughed throughout this book. Actually, it was so funny that after reading the first two chapters alone, I decided to read the rest of the book to my wife (she liked it, too).

These lessons do not necessarily reflect the real world. For example, CPR as we've seen performed on dozens of TV shows is not the way the Red Cross teaches. The chapter about TV physics -- with an extensive analysis of The Dukes of Hazzard -- shows that TV is sometimes like a different universe.* In fact, calling attention to the absurd TV conceits we put up with on a nightly basis is one of the things this book does best.

A consummate smart-ass, Alexander pokes fun at everything from The Dick Van Dyke Show to M*A*S*H to Friends to The Office. Even with my limited TV knowledge of the last 16 years (granted, I have extensive knowledge of the 16 years prior), I got enough of the jokes to make reading A TV Guide to Life worthwhile.

*  There is a hypothesis in astrophysics that in addition to the universe we know, there are other universes (of which we are not and indeed cannot be aware) where the laws of physics are different. TV is kind of like that.

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