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It may be popular, but I'm not watching

You can't watch everything. There are books to read, after all. And music to hear, movies to see, people to talk to, not to mention work to be done.

So there's a lot of hugely popular TV I simply don't watch and never have. And I don't feel the slightest bit sorry about avoiding any of it. On the other hand, if someone wants to try to convince me that reading a great book or listening to great music is a less judicious use of my time and ever-shrinking gray matter than any of the following, I'll be happy to read what they have to say.

Here's my list of significant weekly non-viewing:

1. "Lost," ABC. It's hugely popular, wins prizes and snags magazine covers by the barrel. Even as we speak, there's undoubtedly a water cooler somewhere that is the center of a throng of fans extolling their favorite besieged islanders and rehashing their fortunes and misfortunes. Me? I watched two episodes -- long enough to let Evangeline Lilly register and smile at the prospect of weekly stardom for terrific character actor Terry O'Quinn -- and then realized I had no interest in following where the show was obviously going. I'm deeply sorry they're all lost. I was sorry about Gilligan, too. It's just that in a tough time slot, my votes go to "Veronica Mars" and "Bones."

2. "24," Fox. Great cast. Smart writers and producers, many of them old hands on the decks of "La Femme Nikita," a cult show whose audience found me cultishly happy to be among them on most weeks. By the second year, my patience with protracted apocalypse had worn so thin I was ready to see the world end -- especially if it would insure the demise of the most willful and trouble-prone teenage daughter in the history of the West. Since then, I haven't cared a whit who's president, what new death Jack Bauer will arise from or what will befall civilization without him. If he needs to be interposed between us and disaster, we'd all be better off "Lost."

3. "Will and Grace," NBC. Never watched a single episode all the way through. Not one. It always seemed to epitomize everything I dislike about sitcoms. The cast, heaven knows, is talented but the crucial thing to understand about the success of, say, "Brokeback Mountain," is that every nickel of the film's box office is a nail into the coffin of what "Will and Grace" has been selling.

4. The Olympics, NBC. The figure skating is pretty, the speed skating and snowboarding and slalom skiing are cool. But after an hour of it, I want to see something else -- something where somebody might try to score 81 points or discover a severed human femur in a bouillabaisse or say something witty to a jury.

5. "ER," NBC. Sorry the sun seems to be setting on this. Really. It's a very good show, something that hits me every time I see it -- all 10 times or so in its history. I never cared much for the characters on it, though, no matter who played them -- Clooney, Margulies, Stringfield, Wyle, no matter. Good actors all, but to me boring characters. At least the super-annuated self-dramatizing adolescents on "Grey's Anatomy" aren't boring.

6. "Desperate Housewives," ABC. It's over. At least for me it is. I wish them all a lot of luck and a lot of sex and a lot less desperation. I'm elsewhere.

7. "Commander-in-Chief," ABC. Great idea for a TV show and the next presidential election may well prove how great. Compared to "The West Wing," though, it's a feeble joke. And, as an actress, Geena Davis hasn't aged well. Even before she became the president of the United States, a bland, vaguely clueless self-righteousness (call it Jill St. Johnism) was setting in. I'd rather have seen Joan Allen president, thank you -- not to mention Allison Janney.

8. "Everybody Hates Chris," UPN. Terrific idea for a sitcom. The trouble is, it's a sitcom. If you've seen one episode, you've seen the show.

9. "My Name Is Earl," NBC. Ditto. Times two. A truly brilliant vision of American redemption as a suburb of Hell. And Jason Lee and Jamie Pressley are truly hilarious. It's still just a sitcom, with writers visibly straining and huffing every week to be funny.

10. "Two and a Half Men," CBS. The guiltiest pleasure on television, for me. Every time I happen to watch, I laugh out loud at least twice. So why don't I watch weekly? It's a mystery. And, in this one case, I feel just awful.


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