Lately I’ve been wondering what my brains would be like if I grew up without a television. Would my reference points for the world be more dignified and sensible? What would replace my head’s soupy mess of laugh tracks, jingles, and catchphrases? For no reason I can identify, this afternoon I remembered an upsetting episode of Silver Spoons in which Ricky killed a deer. I absorbed so many forms of 1980s sitcom trauma: Punky Brewster’s friend trapped in a refrigerator, the Maytag man as a sexual predator on Diff’rent Strokes, and I swear there was a dead girl in a rocking chair on a special episode of Webster. And the entirety of Small Wonder and Mama’s Family, which have the sticky memory-feel of a sickbed or fever dream. I don’t remember consciously watching any of these shows; they were just on.

In an interview with The Paris Review, Chris Ware detailed the aura of network programming. “I was sensitive to the broadcast vibe of ABC versus CBS versus NBC versus PBS and to how their particular programs made me feel, even how the particular resolution of each channel was different,” he said. “ABC always felt sharp and acidic, for some reason, and NBC softer, and I’d associate or think of real moments in my life as being more ABC or NBC, as if they were adjectives.” He goes on: “I realized that if I was ever going to do anything meaningful, I had to completely detox from TV, so I quit watching it altogether, and I also very self-consciously tried to eliminate any influence it had on my drawing.”

During this year of indoor living, I’ve been watching a stunning amount of television while working, doing jigsaw puzzles, thinking about writing, and feeling crummy for not writing. So now I have a resolution for the new year.


NRSB-11 – Consumer Programming

Commodified | WéMè Records, 2013 | More
Each night in 2020 I wrote a short post for a series called Notes From the End of a World because I wanted to etch these times into my memory. Before the world changed completely.