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Tuning out Monica and Michael

It's TV turn-off week, and while I won't be celebrating (there was a new "Everwood" and "Gilmore Girls" and I couldn't help myself), Fox has done its best to persuade us all to find a new hobby.

This week, the network trotted not one, but two tabloid staples: Monica Lewinsky and Michael Jackson. The former White House intern is playing chaperone on the new dating series "Mr. Personality." She accompanies the improbably named Hayley Arp, who must choose a boyfriend from among 20 masked men. (See, love really is blind.)

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On Thursday, the King of Pop treated everyone to his home movies. All week, entertainment journalists have been discussing clips of Jackson playing frisbee in a grocery store with the gravitas of CNN anchors analyzing video clips of Saddam Hussein. ("The footage appears to have been shot recently. There are Easter baskets on the shelves.")

There's no question that 1,000 hours - the amount of TV the average American child logs a year, according to the TV Turnoff Network - is an, umm, impressive tally. And I can't argue with anyone who says there are more productive ways to spend time than watching Jackson get in a food fight with a young Macauley Culkin.

Call me weak, but I don't see any harm in the 15 minutes my son devoted to unraveling "Blue's Clues." The same weekend, he visited a zoo, a park, church, and his great-grandmother; had us read him a dozen books; and Swiffered the floor. When he pats the TV, he's usually requesting the bluegrass station, so he can bop around the living-room floor. Like it or not, TV is the vernacular that binds our culture together. And I'd like him to be conversant; just not fluent.


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