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Illustration by Sue Li, 16, Culver City HS

During a summer L.A. Youth staff meeting, in which some of our writers couldn’t stop talking about their favorite television shows, the editors challenged the staff to give up television for two weeks. That meant no watching TV at home or at a friend’s house or even renting movies. These three staff writers accepted the challenge. Here is what they wrote about going TV-free.

I just couldn’t make it

By Sue Li, 16, Culver City HS

"Hmm, maybe I should go outside and expose myself to some natural light," I thought to myself on the first day of my two-week no-TV challenge.

Over the summer, I had hooked myself on cheesy cable sitcoms like That’s So Raven and Degrassi as well as outdated movies on HBO. Somehow, I began to regret our family’s subscription to DirecTV. Television acted as my clock. I knew an hour had passed after two episodes of Family Guy.

I knew the cold, hard truth: television would rot my brain. It would fill my head with useless song lyrics and overdramatic teenage hook-ups and breakups. However, I still loved television. It was a convenient distraction, stalling the time until I had to do my summer homework.

It was easy to avoid television until boredom struck or I was tempted by the presence of a TV at a friend’s house. I caved on the second day at a friend’s house while watching the Simpsons, even though I tried to resist and keep my eyes closed. My fate was inevitable—everyone was watching it. It made me realize what a sad reality teenagers live in.

The next night at home I became so bored that I succumbed in my own house. I had already run through my list of friends to call to distract myself from the television. I had munched on some snacks to kill the time and had already done my homework. My nerves twitched. I was SO bored. Cringing, I turned the television on. The click of the remote was brutal and satisfying.

Even though I failed miserably, I’m still trying to limit my television time. I think it’d be wise if we all practiced some television restraint. I learned that TV does, in fact, make you fat. Without my television, I went for walks and swam in my pool.

As long as the person with the remote is the person in control, it’s OK to enjoy a little television every once in a while. *hugs screen*

I started watching without even thinking about it
By Connie Chung, 16, Gabrielino HS

Usually, I’m good with not watching TV. If anything, I probably spend a couple hours a week being a couch potato. So when my editor, Mike, brought up this challenge, I laughed knowing it was going to be a piece of cake. All I had to do was keep myself occupied and not think about what was cooking on the Food Network (it’s one of my favorite TV vices). During the first weekend, I spent time with my family—shopped with my mom, watched my little sister’s gymnastics practice and hung out with friends while enjoying the hot summer weather. When you’re out of the house, you don’t think much about watching TV, so it was a breeze.

The first few days in the house without watching TV were surprisingly productive as well; I went on a mission to clean and rearrange my room. Yet, the whole time that I was sweating and dusting all I could think about was turning on the Food Network and sitting down with a glass of cool lemonade. Watching TV just seems to make time go by so fast. And the neat thing about it is that it requires only the push of a button.

Thursday came, which was only five days after the challenge began, and I was bored out of my mind on my couch. Whaddya know? I reached for the remote and turned on the TV. It was such a natural feeling that I didn’t think about the challenge. My first instinct was to see what was on the Food Network. Gee, was I lucky to see Rachael Ray sizzling up a 30-minute meal. I was so intrigued by her ability to cook an entire meal in half an hour that I was hooked. Little did I realize that I had just failed my challenge. Then came From Martha’s Kitchen; I’m sorry but passing up the secret to making the perfect chocolate, chocolate cake is just not in my book. Pathetically, I just sat there in awe with my mouth wide open. After a couple hours of watching amazing chefs, I turned off the TV because my butt was numb and I was hungry. I poked my head in the fridge looking for anything edible, then realized I had failed my no-TV-for-two-weeks test. Well, it was good while it lasted and my room is clean, so I’m happy.

It wasn’t that hard

By Nicole Chi, 15, La Cañada HS

On the first day of the no-TV challenge I decided to prevent any slip ups by unplugging the TV in my bedroom. But that still left the three other TV sets in my house. I had already burnt myself out on TV in the beginning of summer so it was not that difficult to avoid it. In fact, I forgot about the contest a couple times during the first day.

The only time I could have watched TV was during the three hours after I woke up. Instead, I read a book, read the Los Angeles Times or played with my dogs. I never really gave much thought to TV because I had better things to do. Even if I did think about it, I didn’t want to watch because the only things on in the morning are shows like Jerry Springer or Bob the Builder.

Throughout the first week, it didn’t take much effort to keep from watching TV because I assumed that only re-runs were playing. Besides, the weather was wonderful and I was sick of staying cooped up in my house all day. So I spent most of the time with friends or outside with my dogs. I also had homework from tutoring and I had to read Huckleberry Finn for school, so TV was the last thing on my mind. I am more of a nocturnal person so I did most of my homework and other things that involved the use of brainpower in the evening. Since I had tutoring sessions during both weeks and all of them gave homework, the second week ended up being a re-run of the first week.

After the two weeks passed, I realized that I watched less TV than I did before I started this challenge. It actually helped me in getting my homework done earlier and finishing Huckleberry Finn.

TV is a right
By Frances Rubio, 16, Nogales HS

When Mike first announced giving up television, I thought it’d be cake. After all, I wasn’t doing anything too exciting. But when he told us it would have to be for two weeks, I hesitated. Two weeks without brainless amusement?

During the school year, I never had time for TV, unless I wanted to fail my classes, quit all my activities and kiss goodbye to what little social life I had. So TV became a craving in the summer.

Well, that first week was torturous. First I unsuccessfully tried to read summer-reading books, such as The Scarlet Letter and Legacy. But they didn’t hold my attention. So I came to the only solution: the Internet. But after reading about the great new shows through on-line journals and looking at various sites about different television shows, my brain started to fry.

Around the end of that first weekend, I started hearing comments from friends. And soon, I was dying to know what the fuss was about on VH-1’s I Love the 90’s. So, curiosity got to me. After a tiny debate on the standards of my determination and will power, I flaked, and turned on the boob tube at exactly 11:54 a.m. Monday, about nine days after the challenge had begun.

Honestly, waves of relief drifted through me. Even better, I Love the 90’s turned out to be an absolute riot. But I couldn’t end it there, so I made up for the past week: mornings with Fuse, lunch spent with Food Channel, afternoons tuned to Superstation with a bit of the History Channel, then VH-1 for the rest of the time until night time with Adult Swim on Cartoon Network.

After realizing I had failed after the first week, I crossed paths between guilt and peace. After watching I Love the 90’s more and more, I came to the conclusion that the collapse was well worth it. Although I didn’t succeed in avoiding television for two weeks, I did manage one week of torment. Besides, for three months of summer, at least eleven weeks have to be spent soaking up the channels. It’s a rite of passage.