Switch off TV, group urges

Mankind survived for thousands of years without Survivor, ER, Whose Line Is It Anyway? and even Sesame Street.

Bearing this in mind, a growing faction says just turn the television off and exercise.

Monday marks the first day of National TV-Turnoff Week. The TV Turnoff Network, which has organized the week of doing more and watching less since 1995, estimates that six million kids and parents will turn off the boob tube and devote more time to their hobbies.

U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher has registered his support for National TV-Turnoff Week, noting that obesity in American children and adults are at their highest levels and that one in 15 school-age children is overweight, according to the surgeon general’s Web site. A study by the A.C. Nielsen Co. (1998) says the average American watches 3 hours and 46 minutes of TV each day (more than 52 days of nonstop TV-watching per year). By 65, the average American will have spent nearly nine years glued to the tube.

By 65, the average American will have watched more than two million commercials.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, National Education Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, YMCA, Girl Scouts and 55 other organizations say that turning off the television for one week is a great way to encourage healthier, active lifestyles, stronger families and communities and improved reading skills.

The TV Turnoff Network, formerly TV-Free America, is a nonprofit, nonsectarian organization dedicated to encouraging Americans to reduce their TV-watching, and to raise public awareness of the harmful effects of excessive television viewing. More than 18 million people have participated in National TV-Turnoff Week since the annual event began in 1995. Last year’s campaign drew more than six million people.

The TV Turnoff Network folks say that too often TV viewing displaces creativity, productivity, healthy physical activity, civic engagement, reading, thinking and doing.

“Denying children TV is no more likely to encourage kids to enjoy reading, for instance, than denying them ice cream would encourage them to like Brussels sprouts,” Robert Sachs, president of the National Cable Television Association, told The Associated Press.

TV Turnoff Week seems to have little impact on TV watching. TV networks have never noticed a falloff in viewers during past TV Turnoff weeks, said David Poltrack, chief researcher at CBS in a report filed on ABC News. During some of the weeks, viewership has actually been above average.

Here’s just a sampling of what Americans would miss if they didn’t watch TV at all this week:

Monday: Kiss My Act (8 p.m., ABC) – Camryn Mannheim plays a weighty Cyrano de Bergerac-like comedian, who helps a beautiful but dull comedian. WWF Raw is War (9 p.m., TNN) – Wrestling has taken over the hearts and minds of American sports enthusiasts.

Tuesday: InStyle: Celebrity Moms (8 p.m., NBC) – Cindy Crawford hosts this private peek at the lives of celebrity moms including Josie Bissett and Kelly Ripa. Dark Angel (9 p.m., FOX) – Dark, hip, new sci-fi series with Jessica Alba about a genetically enhanced woman who helps anyone and everyone she can.

Wednesday: Contact (8 p.m., CBS) – The Earth’s first meeting with extra-terrestrials. Ralph Ellison’s King of the Bingo Game (9:30 p.m., PBS) – A man with a pregnant, ailing wife seeks work in 1943 Harlem and finds Bingo a lucrative past time.

Thursday: Friends (8 p.m., NBC) – Rachel has a run in with an old sorority sister who holds a shared secret, while Monica and Chandler’s wedding plans proceed. Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (9 p.m., ABC) – Regis Philbin is always so nattily attired in this, the original primetime game show.

Friday: The Fifth Element (8 p.m., UPN) – A New York cabdriver gets involved in order to save Earth in the year 2259, in a beautifully constructed film. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (9 p.m., CBS) – TV Guide calls this “the best show you’re not watching.”