New York – I'm watching MTV with the sound turned down. There's a young man reading news, and I have no idea who he is.
Somebody asked me if I saw Joe Pantoliano get his head cut off on The Soprano's? No, I didn't. As a matter of fact, I don't have HBO. I was in a film with Lisa Kudrow called Analyze This a few years ago, however I've never watched a single episode of Friends. I know Mark Burnette produces Survivor and Richard Hatch won the first season's million-dollar payoff, but that's as far as my knowledge of the show goes. The Bachelor? Wasn't that a bad Chris O'Donnel movie with Renee Zelwegger?
I have missed the last two decades of popular television. No American Idol. Ditto X-Files, 24, Seinfeld, Cheers, Frasier, King of Queens, CSI, ER, nada! The last time I can remember watching television religiously was when Ron Howard played Richie Cunningham on Happy Days.
I'm an "event television" watcher. I'll make plans to watch The Super Bowl, Oscars, Grammy's, MTV Music Awards and The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, but not much of anything else.
Am I missing anything? I don't think so. And as a feature news contributor, writer and producer for both Fox News Channel and Foxnews.com, you would think I'd be more in tune with the entertainment landscape.
But here's the catch -- I am. Whatever pop-culture information I need I get from cable news, the Internet, newspapers, non-fiction books, satellite radio and movies. It's not like I shun pop culture on purpose. The truth is, I'm too busy to watch music videos, sit-coms or play video games. I am a workaholic, and when I'm not working, I'm busy with a house project, spending time with my wife, reading, going to the movies or working out.
And I'm not the only one. How else can one explain the growing popularity of personal video recorders, like TIVO, and the booming sales of full seasons' worth of television shows on DVD?
But I've discovered that it's dangerous to admit to television series ignorance. People want to talk about their favorite shows, and if one can't hang or, Heaven forbid, admit to not watching, you're either left out in the cold or more often, attacked as a snob. That's why every once in a while I'll lie and say 'yeah I saw The Soprano's.' I'll nod and ooh and ahh a bit, and I can usually get away with it.
Do I feel bad about deceiving my friends? No. The fact of the matter is, there is so much information flowing through our society that it's impossible to not know what's going on, even if one tried. Searching on a celebrity or title on the Internet will garner much more information than one bargains or cares for.
Plus, since so many people talk about their favorite shows on a regular basis, I sometimes think that I've actually seen the episode of discussion. For instance, I can quote from several shows so readily you would think I was a fan.
"Is that your final answer?"
I know who "The Naked Guy" and "The Soup Nazi" are. I know Mulder's sister was abducted by aliens. I know David Caruso (CSI) is back, and George Clooney (ER) is gone. I know who Tina Fey (SNL) and Brooke Burke (E!) are.
All of this information is good. But I don't necessarily feel the need to experience it firsthand at the cost of doing something more productive, like working on advancing my career or learning new skills - whether it be in technology, broadcasting, writing or acting.
This is not to say I judge or condemn others who love television. Afterall, being ON television more and more is what I strive for in my career. The challenge I face, ironically, prohibits me from tuning in too often -- even to watch myself.
Mike Straka is the project manager for Fox News's Internet operations and contributes as a features reporter and producer on Fox Magazine (Sundays 11pm on FNC) and as a writer for Foxnews.com.