Confessions of a Couch Potato

Charleton weighs in on his knowledge, and love of, television

David T. Ahlborn

Remember when your parents said watching TV was bad for your eyes? That’s why Charleton wears glasses.

Oh, you did climate change research in the Amazon rainforest and collected coral samples from the Great Barrier Reef this summer? That’s cool, I guess. But I got to be a Professional Television Watcher.

I know plenty of you Harvard kids were only allowed to watch a few hours of TV a week growing up, or grew up without a television at all, so you probably can’t even imagine the idea of sitting in a chair and watching TV for eight hours a day. But this was truly a dream come true for me. I watch at least eight hours of TV a day in the summer anyway, so why not commute to New York to do it?

I interned in the video department at Gawker Media, working on the Gawker, Jezebel, Defamer, and other videos you watch to procrastinate. When we weren’t working on a particular project (like a compilation of Obama/Osama slip-ups), I literally watched TV for eight hours straight––waiting for the next wardrobe malfunction, news anchor melt-down, or embarrassing interview that would become the buzz on the blogosphere and email list fodder.

Naturally, I watched a lot of Fox News, even more of The View, and so much of The Hills that my imaginary frenemies are named Lo, Whitney, and Spencer.

This was my dream job not only because of the chance to work at Gawker (a site which any legit internet addict visits compulsively), but also because I consider myself a veritable TV connoisseur. Based on my considerable experience, I have the definitive opinion on whether a show is good or bad. Gossip Girl: Great. Heroes: Quickly fading. Prison Break: Terrible. Ugly Betty: Pure gold. CSI Miami: Pure crap.

I have seen every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I can summarize almost every plotline in detail. I’ve watched every episode of the more recent, and wildly underhyped, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia a handful of times, and every episode of Arrested Development at least a dozen. If, for some reason, you still think you’re more TV-obsessed than I am, I invite you to visit www.twitter.com/Chuck_Bass.

My love affair with television began at a very young age. My entire family gathered almost every night for our favorite prime time shows, usually without any disagreement over what to watch. My parents sleep with the TV on in their room, so when I couldn’t fall asleep I used to sit in the dark at the foot of their bed staring at Richard Simmons infomercials until I dozed off.

On days when I convinced Mom that I was too sick to go to school, I spent the morning on the couch next to her entranced by the trashiest of talk shows, cradling a gigantic bowl of Frosted Flakes in my lap, and in the afternoons I read to the soothing sounds of soap operas for background noise.

My family cannot go out to dinner without my mom retelling an episode of 3rd Rock From the Sun that revolutionized conventions for tipping waiters. My sister and I use catchphrases from the short-lived The Famous Jett Jackson in everyday conversation. Two of my clearest memories are of that fateful day in second grade when my dad installed a satellite dish, just in time for the golden age of Snick, and then the day just last summer that catapulted The Lamb Family into the TiVo era.

When I got to Harvard, keeping up with my shows was harder, but with Hulu.com and a little hard work I make it work every week. I actually make schedules around being able to catch up on the shows I’ve missed, and most of the time my favorite shows are a higher priority than homework. So far this year, my roommate has returned every single night to find me with headphones on, propped up on pillows in my bed staring intently at my computer.

At a time when modern-day luddites are blaming the decline of our society on the constant glow of computer screens and televisions, but I proudly wear my TV addiction as a badge of honor. Angry mothers ironically appear on Oprah claiming that television is taking away from their family’s quality time, but I remember fondly how TV brings my family together.

My roommates used to make fun of my compulsion to watch TV shows on my computer, but now I’d like to think they respect just how important it is to me. Plus, it’s pretty easy to tune them out since I’m wearing headphones most of the time.

—Charleton A. Lamb ’11 is currently watching Gossip Girl.