By Charlene Lee, 14, Walnut HS
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Illustration by Sue Li, L.A. Youth archives

Five hours of Heroes—straight. I blame the television industry for putting most of their shows online. How could I resist watching Milo Ventimiglia save the world when he’s just a click away? I turned off my computer, head dazed, vision blurry.

When I got up, the room seemed to be spinning, and that’s when I knew I had to stop watching so much TV. So I made myself a deal: no TV for one week, not even YouTube. When I told my family members, they all laughed at me. I have a reputation for supposedly watching the most television in the house (just because I’m the only one who watches the big-screen TV, but they’re the ones with TVs in their rooms!). Their unsupportive attitude only made me more determined. I told myself that it was going to only be one week. What could it hurt, right?

Day 1: My Heroes-obsessed friends tell me that tonight’s episode is going to solve the biggest mystery of the season. Then, I find out that One Tree Hill is returning from its three-month hiatus, and there’s going to be a two-hour Grey’s Anatomy special this week. I am utterly devastated.
    To prevent myself from dashing out of my room to watch Heroes, I have locked myself in my room. My eyes keep flickering to the clock. But I have a solution: I am going to submerge myself in schoolwork. I know that hardly sounds like an equal substitute for Heroes, but I am going to find out how productive I can be when I have no television to distract me.

Day 2: So Tuesday morning at school, I sat through two hours of torture, hearing Heroes fanatics scream about the amazing things that had happened the night before. Right now, I want to give up on my one-week ban, and it’s only the second day! I keep repeating to myself, “If I quit now, that would mean I had given up Heroes for nothing.” But so far, I’ve been really productive. Before, when prime time rolled by, I would stop doing my work, whether I had finished or not, and go watch my shows. Then, I would come back, too distracted to focus on finishing my work. The separation from television has made me realize how much time I used to waste watching shows I don’t even like, namely everything on Disney Channel (but who can’t resist watching another remix edition of High School Musical every now and then?). I just finished my Spanish project that’s due on Friday (my original plan was to start on Thursday), got one and a half hours of SAT II studying done, and sent in new drafts to my L.A. Youth editor. All that work completed versus a cheesy Disney Channel Original Movie. Not bad.

Day 3: One Tree Hill is on tonight. As I helped my mom with dinner, I heard the television in the next room. I cringed when I heard the promo for tonight’s episode. I can still hear the deep, manly announcer-voice replaying in my head, “One Tree Hill returns tonight. Catch an all new episode, 9/8 Central, only on the new CW.” I really think this no TV thing is starting to take a toll on me. I’ve never gotten pimples until now, but I swear I’m breaking out because of this lack of television.

Day 4: The bad news: My skin isn’t clearing up. The good news: I don’t care that Grey’s Anatomy is on right now. I’m glad that I’m not as attached to television as I once was. Missing a show doesn’t seem like that big of a deal anymore. I think I’m going to stop watching television on weekdays, with the exception of Heroes, of course. Milo Ventimiglia is worth wasting just one hour a week. Besides, I need a break sometime.

Day 5: Today was the opening day of Spider-Man 3. I was pretty excited for it to come out, and my friends were all going, so I quickly decided to change the deal. I felt that movies were still considered television, but technically, I wasn’t cheating because although a week means seven days, it can also mean five days. And since I was the one who established the ban in the first place … it only seems fair that I’m entitled to interpret the rules however I wish, right?
    But watching the movie wasn’t nearly as satisfying as I thought it would be. I don’t know if I’m just being a nerd, but throughout the entire movie, I couldn’t help but think, “I could be working productively at home right now instead of wasting my time watching this.” I think it might be half nerdy and half truth.
    On Saturday, the day after my ban ended, I watched the long-anticipated return of One Tree Hill online. I’ve been watching One Tree Hill for four years, and never have I watched so bad an episode. I think because I’ve been watching One Tree Hill for so long, I just watch it out of habit, not because it’s actually a good show. I mean, how could I like a show where a woman has a son with a man, then becomes engaged to his brother, only to return to her first love while pregnant with his brother’s baby after he was murdered—especially when the murderer was his own brother?
    The break from television has helped me stop wasting my time watching bad shows like One Tree Hill. It also has made me so much more productive. When I had nothing to do, I just found things to do, such as reading a book or thinking of ways to improve my club. The more I kept myself busy, the less I was tempted to watch television. Now, I try to be as productive as I can because I’ve realized how much I could be doing instead of watching TV. Now I want to try cutting back on how much I talk on the phone—and try not to cheat this time.