I have a tiny B&W Emerson television in my room as a kid. It is on all the time. The antenna picks up the three networks and a couple UHF stations, so I end up watching a lot of Scarecrow and Mrs. King and reruns of The Fall Guy. Anything is better than the silence of my bedroom, though I prefer situation comedies. One day when I am about ten I must have done something really horrible because my parents take the Emerson out of my room for a week. I roll around on the ground in histrionics: What about the eighth amendment? What about due process? What about MACGYVER? I can, of course, watch television with my parents, but that means either This Old House or enduring my father's feigned indignation every time someone alludes to the fact that someone somewhere might have something to do with S-E-X. "What is this crap?" He asks whenever a reference is made to bosoms. "What is the world coming to?" Just say the word "ass" on television and my dad turns into a Victorian southern belle who has accidentally wandered into a homosexual-bathhouse orgy.

There is no way I can endure such torture, so instead I sit on the floor next to the same transistor radio I use to listen to Ernie Harwell describe late-night Tigers games. I remember there's a strange FM frequency that broadcasts the audio from the NBC nightly lineup, so I turn the dial and close my eyes as I hear Rue McLanahan tell a racy joke about picking up two middle-aged sailors at a hotel bar. I can picture the hotel bar in my head. It has a cabana theme. Estelle Getty lands a zinger. The laugh track approves. Cut to commerical. I hold my radio up to my chest. Thank you for being a friend.

Though the punishment is only supposed to last a week, my parents either show great mercy or grow tired of what a pain-in-the-ass I am when not pacified by television. A couple nights later I am falling asleep in the monochrome glow of Jake and the Fat Man, as it should be.

Eventually I get a color Sylvania. This is where the story transitions to the nineties with a technicolor montage to the Smashing Pumpkins' "Today": Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier in gayface give two snaps up; Sinead rips up the Pope; Murphy Brown has a baby; Steve Urkel wonders whether he did that. The television stays on when I do homework. It is the white noise I require to focus on anything important. It will carry me through term papers, and college.

I'm certainly not one of those insufferable types who claims not to watch TV or even own one; I'm just one of those insufferable dumb asses who punishes himself for how much he loves television. I insisted we buy a 15-inch TV that we were supposed to watch less becauseof its size but instead we just squint at it from the couch or press our noses against the screen. In San Francisco I insisted we forgo cable thinking we wouldn't even turn on the thrift store TV, but every night we just watched reruns of The King of Queens. My ambivalence towards the medium is definitely behind my hesitation to let the kids watch television. While I do not want them to grow into insufferable adults who see nothing redeeming about television, I do want them to have a healthy relationship with the damned technology. I do not want them clutching the disembodied voice of Dorothy Zbornak in the darkness.

Also, there's nothing quite as refreshing as the feeling of being a total hypocrite. The damn television is on even now as I type this: some show on A&E about a biker gang fighting a group of carnies. Does it get any better than that? I suppose it could be better on one of those high-definition living room jumbotrons. But that would be just a little too enjoyable. We have started talking about the possibility of getting a Tivo. "I've heard you actually watch less when you have one," Wood says.

My ears perk up: "Really?"