Skip to main content
Original Issue

Surfin' USA

Armed with remote control, channel-hopping fans have the attention span of a gnat

You don't know what it's like being remotely obsessed. It is third-and-three with 28 seconds left and Elway breaks the huddle, and you're sure you have time to check on Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman before the snap. You still don't know who won the 1991 World Series because you got lost somewhere between the Jose Cuervo pro beach volleyball playoffs and the Cooking Channel. Do they still sell Tide? You haven't watched an ad all the way through since "I'd rather fight than switch." You just can't help it. You always feel this urge to

of millions of Remote Control Addicts (RCAs) in this country. We know one named Gary who says his remote has turned him into an unfeeling, insatiable, uninterested zap zombie. "It's gotten really bad," Gary says, remorsefully. "I used to be able to enjoy a football game. Then I started zapping the ads. Then I zapped between plays. Now if it looks like a running play, I'm out of there. I mean, it's like this strange force I have no

of this has anything to do with women. Women seem to have been born without the necessary zapping gene. For some reason they want detail, they want plot, they are not so quick to judge a program, a game, a moment. Men, on the other hand, basically just want to check real quick and see if Matlock is going to catch the

RCA Anonymous meetings, where addicts tell their sad tales. Tragic stories of men addicted to picture-in-picture. Audio swap. Leather six-remote racks. Men obsessed with voice recognition remotes. Men who don't realize their families left them in 1989 during a twi-night double

office neighbor, Dalton. says he got so tired of missing so many big plays because he was off zapping somewhere that he finally started having his wife hide the remote whenever a really big game was about to come on. Only problem is, about three weeks ago his wife refused to tell him where she hid the damn thing, and he had to move into a Howard Johnson's down the

offender is baseball. I will personally come and tongue-bathe your cat if you can actually sit down and watch a baseball game start to finish without zapping. Most males can't go two pitches in a row without zapping. Pitch. Zap. Return zap. Batter steps out and scratches. Still time to zap. Return zap. Pitch. Ball one. Enough time for three zaps, then a return zap. Pitcher still touching himself. Zap. And they wonder why baseball comes in with a Nielsen rating slightly lower than that of a PBS special on plantar wails in the weekly

getting any easier. Now there is a gizmo on the new remotes called commercial skip, or CS, for short. The idea is, whenever a commercial comes on, you hit CS and a 30-second timer appears in the upper-righthand corner of your TV screen and starts counting down. Now you are free to zap at your leisure without risk of missing part of the game. You and your thumb can go on a surfing safari because when the clock hits zero, CS will automatically zap back to the game you were watching 30 seconds ago. I might think this is the coolest invention since Heather Locklear, if I were not a recovering

University of Georgia, Vince Dooley. Apparently Dooley spent so much time with his remote that one night his wife came downstairs stark naked save for a bath towel, stood in front of the TV and announced, "Play me or trade me." You wonder if Dooley's thumb couldn't resist and

flagship station KSTW-TV, for one, is trying to help RCAs with their tragic plight. The station is editing some of the Seattle Mariners' games to one hour and replaying them in prime time. The one-hour format leaves none of the action out but cuts the scratching, spitting and groin readjustments, trimming the whole business down to a low, low 48 minutes. It's like the old Notre Dame football highlight show that Lindsey Nelson narrated 20 years ago. Remember? "Neither team was able to advance the ball, so we move to further action in the fourth quarter...." Don't we need this in real life? You're at a cocktail party and some mutual-fund investor is boring you into a coma, when suddenly Nelson shows up in his plaid sports jacket and says, "Neither man was able to advance the conversation, so we move to further

medical profession is starting to see the danger in this. A doctor recently suggested to comedian Richard Pryor that he throw away his remote control and start changing channels himself in order to get some exercise. Pryor wasn't too happy about surrendering his remote, but he should have said he would be glad to if anybody could find the buttons on a television

summation, our obsession with zapping is unhealthy. Nothing is good enough, short enough, interesting enough now for the American male. If football running plays are getting zapped, what chance does the evening news have? The quicker we zap, the shallower and louder TV must become to keep the attention of viewers, who, come to think of it, are also becoming shallower and louder. So put down your remotes, America, and listen to somebody else's opinion all the way through once in a doggone