Having bronchitis afforded me a rare view of the bleak daytime-television channelscape I don't normally enjoy. For a week the coughing banged me up and rattled me awake before regular programming had begun. First thing in the morning, Comedy Central and FX shill indestructible car wax and a leg-toning apparatus while I've leaned against the shower wall. Through my shaking, hacking fits, and the gurgle of warm water, I can hear the paid programming audience clapping and "ooohing" while an announcer yells, "Isn't that amazing!" through a brimming smile.
After a dozy pot of hot lemon and honey tea is brewed, after a little pink pill is swallowed with a tiny shot of starchy azure syrup chaser, then Buffy's on channel 68. While Willow makes out with her dumpy girlfriend, Xander cracks wise, and Buffy swings in at the last crack of a second to save them all, I'm under three blankets on the couch and I'm sweating like I just ran the Kentucky Derby with a dwarf on my back, but I'm still cold.
Cheerios roll around in my mouth and tear up my soft palate, and the milk is sweet and granular. The taste of honey lingers in my mouth until another shot of blue and dose of pink corrupt the sugar with the strict wang of medicine. "Blech. God damn!" I croak from a hoarse throat. It's lunch, and this is the first thing I've said. My voice resides in a basement register I couldn't reach without a viral assistant, so I seize the opportunity to sing a little Barry White into my cereal spoon. "Ah, girl," I sing into the spoon. "I don't know, I don't know why. I can't get enough of your love, babe!"
Cough. Cough. Cough!
After the news, I'm blanking in and out of a feverish sleep, and Jerry Springer is asking me how long my girlfriend has been dating my sister. I don't have a sister, I tell Jerry. All I have is Mr. Chips, my stuffed Jack Russell terrier, that I've got clutched to my heaving chest. "Mr. Chips wouldn't date my sister!" I yell at Jerry Springer. "He's a stuffed animal!"
Another shower serves to rinse off the bed sweat and bring my temperature down. Another bowl of cereal. The sun's setting, my apartment's getting darker, and it's time for King of the Hill.
WHAT I WILL AND WON'T WATCH THIS WEEK
Thursday, May 4
WGNSAT 11:00 a.m. I'm growing a mustache and I'm looking for a new car. As television is my main source of education, I'm taking my cue from the lip and Ferrari of Tom Selleck. First I got to get the car and the bristles, then I get the chicks. Now, if only I could find a Burt Reynolds movie.
Stroker Ace (1983)
CMT 11:00 a.m. Bingo. Stroker Ace , starring Burt Reynolds as a stock-car driver. I'm going to be fighting the ladies off with a stick after Thursday morning.
Friday, May 5
The Breakfast Club (1985)
FAM 8:00 p.m. Oh, Molly. I waited for you. Every Saturday detention I had to endure. I was the moody loner in the leather jacket carving my initials into my back-row desk. You never came, Molly. We never exchanged earrings next to the football field. Oh, Molly.
Saturday, May 6
TOON 6:30 a.m. May 6 is my 30th birthday. You know what that means. Cartoons, tacos, bourbon, and cocaine. All damn day and all damn night. It's okay if you're afraid. If you're afraid, just say you're afraid, and you don't have to come over. You're afraid. Ring the bell and drop the gifts off on my porch and run. It's okay.
TOON 11:00 a.m. They put me on antibiotics for my bronchitis. I haven't had antibiotics since I was a kid, and I can feel the nuclear chemicals slip around my bloodstream and make my scalp crawl all over my head. I'm growing a third eye on the back of my neck, and I should be able to bend small metal objects using only the power of my mind by Saturday morning, maybe Saturday afternoon. Either way, I'll need a cape.
Sunday, May 7
Smokey and the Bandit (1977)
SPIKE 8:00 p.m. Two-for-one mustache deal: Get Jackie Gleason's soup-strainer of Justice when you buy Reynolds's outlaw push broom. Act now and we'll throw in a Trans Am Firebird and Sally Field when she was young and cute.
Monday, May 8
David Blaine: Drowned Alive
ABC 8:00 p.m. Anthony Olivieri: Doesn't Give a Crap
Tuesday, May 9
FOOD 11:00 p.m. I could complain about the watery coffee at the all-nite diner on the corner, but what the hell good would it do? You get what you pay for. You can't sit at a counter and cough tuberculosis all over the place, eat smeary eggs, AND savor gourmet coffee for under four bucks or else it would become the sheik place to be and old ladies would make the trip down from La Jolla in their BMWs and giant white sunglasses, and the crowd of night-shift city workers, the bums, and hustlers wouldn't come in anymore, and then what the hell would you have? A good cup of coffee in a lousy place. I could bitch, but, eh, it's better this way.
Wednesday, May 10
Law & Order: Criminal Intent
USA 11:00 p.m. My neighbors are an old junkie couple. Not only are they a day older than salt and disabled, but their house reeks of crystal meth and they have bellowing fights on their lawn at 4 a.m. I imagine it's only a matter of time before I find one of them toes-up in the alley being licked all over by their 18 cats and assuming a lovely shade of grayish purple. Bllllblblbblbllbah! I've creeped myself out thinking about it. BLEH!
Thursday, May 11
MTVJAMS 10:00 p.m. I wonder if we'll look back on the Booty Hip Hop craze as fondly as we see Doo Wop. I wasn't around, but I assume there were a lot of folks who thought, "Re-mem-mem, Re-mem-mem-member, Re-mem-mem Re-mem-mem-member," was kind of dumb. Through the sepia lens of sentimentality, "Who put the bop in the bop she bop she bop" sounds like street-tough poetry instead of gibberish. Maybe "My lovely lady lumps" won't sound quite so gaggingly unappealing in 50 years. One can only hope.