February 20, 2002

Well, I get to be a Nielsen family.

For those of you who have never had the privilege, the Nielsen folk send you a TV diary so you can keep track of the broadcast programming you watch. The survey is fairly intensive, and is used by all the major networks to determine what programs live and which ones die.

If I thought that lying on the survey could possibly help solid SF programming (without afflicting my soul with that heavy burden of guilt that comes from having lied to, stolen from, or otherwise mistreated a large, faceless corporation) I'd do it in an instant. The truth is that my family and I watch exactly nothing that the diary will let us make note of. We rent some movies, and that's it.

So my little household is a cultural artifact. A couple of things have made that quite clear. First, the survey said "If no televisions were in use during the week of the diary, please tell us why." There were two check-boxes.

  • All TVs in this house are broken.
  • Family was on vacation and house was empty.
That's it. Those are the only two reasons imaginable for a family to not watch TV for a week. Forget possible answers like "commercial breaks include increasingly amoral attempts to sway my opinion and steal my money," or "it's all mindless drivel anyway," or even "we're too busy interacting with each other to waste time on television." Nope. If you don't watch TV in your house, you must have left the house, or broken the TV.

The second thing that drove home our status as a cultural artifact was the nice satellite service salesman who came to the door. My wife answered, and the conversation went exactly like this:

Salesman: "Our truck is in the area doing installations. What kind of service do you have?"
Sandra: "None."
Salesman: "No, I mean do you have cable? Digital cable? Satellite?"
Sandra: "None. The TV isn't hooked up to anything."
Salesman: "Ummm... well... have you ever been watching your favorite program on one channel, and wished you could be recording another?"
Cluemeter Technician: "I'm getting zeroes across the board, sir. This lifeform is completely non-intelligent."
Sandra: "No, I can't say that I have."
Salesman: "Oh. Umm... well... have you ever wanted more channels than you can currently get? Like premium movie channels, or specialty sports channels?"
Sandra: "No. We're not interested."
Salesman: "But we have a special deal on right now, and our truck is in the area today!"
Cluemeter Technician: "Negative readings now, sir. I believe this lifeform is actively attempting to suck intelligence from the surrounding area."
Weapons Officer: "I can vaporize him from here, sir."
Exactly like that. Word-for-unbelievable-word. The cluemeter technician recorded the whole thing.

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