The new fall television season is in full force this week, highlighted by interesting new shows and old favorites. For people who worship at the altar of the family entertainment center it's like the high holidays.
So much new stuff on so many nights. It's enough to make your head spin, your TiVo work overtime and the rest of your nightly schedule come to a grinding halt.
Let's face it: For many folks, watching television has become almost like work. With so many good and buzz-generating programs - especially the serials - there's inherent pressure to watch them all (or most of them) to stay in the loop. You don't want to be left out of the water-cooler talk or clued in to an episode you haven't had time to watch.
As a co-worker put it, it makes TiVo less effective, that need to have seen the latest hot show by the time the rest of the work crew hits the breakroom. So basically we've taken entertainment and made it into a kind of endurance sport.
But that hardly bothers us. We're tough. We push on. And we keep watching.
New ways to watch shows keep getting invented - video iPods, cell phones, streaming video - but it doesn't lessen our appetite for watching a good, old television set.
The question is: Can we go without it? Can we put a stop to those 30- and 60-minute doses of dramatic diversion?
Probably not. Considering that, according to Nielsen Media Research, American TV viewing continues to increase despite all the competition TV now has with new media. In last year's report, Nielsen Media Research said the average viewer watches television for four hours and 35 minutes a day.
I thought about that number and could hardly believe it. I thought about it as I turned my TV off before leaving for work and again when I turned on the tube after getting home. And then, as I put down the remote after turning off the TV before going to bed, I decided that number was pretty accurate.
So what do you do? Maybe you get rid of one of your sets. Give it away or throw it out the window, up to you. But even then, the average home would have 1.73 sets as backups. Yes, according to the same Nielsen research, the average household includes 2.55 people and 2.73 television sets.
Let's face it: When TVs outnumber people in the average home, you're solidly hooked on the product. And if you want to be part of the water-cooler crew, you have little choice.
So this week marks the beginning of television season and the end of other weeknight activity. If you avoid socializing and talking too much to your family, you might, just might, be able to keep up with all the shows.
And don't worry. If something really major happens with your family, it will probably be on TV.
E-mail Todd Cline at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Tuesdays.