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I Am a Failure at Watching TV

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Words I don't believe I have uttered before: "I am going home to watch TV." I left dinner with friends in Santa Monica so I could be in place for the start of Leno.

My friend P. expressed distress at the content of that statement. "You don't LIKE the guy, do you?" and I knew from the tone of it that if I said that I did, my stock would fall. I neither like nor dislike Leno (although I have always been intrigued by his long and happy marriage.) Years ago I had a crush on Letterman, in fact. What mattered last night was I just wanted to participate in this exciting TV debut, since I could. Since I finally bit the bullet and got a TV.

L. was interested in a different topic of conversation. Racism is becoming more of a problem, she said. I said I didn't think it was any worse a problem than it ever had been, but simply that the media were reflecting (bellowing) the problem at the moment. The whole 'You Lie' business and tea parties and the aftermath, etc. All of this is another reason I haven't missed watching the 'news' all these years. All that shouting, and much of it zeroed in on incidents, not substance. Bickering is better for TV than details.

Earlier in the day, I'd spent a few minutes watching Chris Matthews as he dressed down Blago for contradicting himself, and then wished him well with his new book and bade him goodbye. If only our other interpersonal conflicts resolved themselves with a commercial break and a kind farewell. Seeing Blago, live, shocked me. Since I hadn't had a TV during his whole debacle, I'd never heard him speak, only knew him for his hair and the surrounding mess. For some reason, I found myself thinking about the worst moments I had in my career on television, where I was relegated to reading viewer emails on the Ollie North/Paul Begala show during the chad debacle. And having to pretend it was fun.

Anyway, back to Leno. I got home and got into position, ready to watch history. The TV flickered in the background as I read a bit of this fantastic Oscar Wao book everyone's been telling me to read. America's Got Talent, more faux drama, the judges upbraiding the contestants. I could tell what they were saying without even hearing them. For some reason, I picked up the computer and saw that my friend Brian Stelter had been blogging Leno for the NY Times. I found myself less interested in Kanye West's recent transgression than I had been hours before. Maybe that's why, knowing it was in store, I nodded off. I woke up with a start at 11:15pm and hadn't seen one frame of the new show, after all.

I'm a failure as a TV viewer. But I'm going to force myself to keep trying.