How television stole my life

As a man in the US sues a cable TV company for "making his wife obese", a British reporter recounts how the box in the corner embedded itself into his psyche.

"Television has done much for psychiatry by spreading information about it… as well as contributing to the need for it."
So said Alfred Hitchcock of the medium which dominates many of our lives, our conversations, our social habits and our understanding of the world we live in.

I'm beginning to think he's right. I won't side myself with people who denounce the televisual medium as a whole because those kind of people are normally happy to sit in a cinema watching two hours of ostentatious bilge and call it art, but I am starting to think that it will put me into therapy before long.

"I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book" - another famous quote, this time from Groucho Marx.

He may well have a point in saying that literature is far healthier for the imagination than television, but it would be crass and hypocritical to dismiss every new medium that comes along out of some whimsical veneration of the past.

For all I know there are probably television producers who scoff at people who make computer games, but they would be wrong to do so.

Television has a great deal to offer simply by its nature. It can impact on more people at a single moment in time than any film or book could ever do.

It can shape the attitudes and outlooks of millions of people in an instance.

That said, there is an awful lot of rubbish on there too, but it is a medium worth preserving and respecting in spite of this for the possibilities it offers when somebody produces something worth watching.

The architect Frank Lloyd Wright described television as "chewing gum for the eyes".

So what? I quite like chewing gum. I quite like television as well - I can't imagine what I would do with many of my evenings without it and find it a useful escape from the real world.

But if I had to pick between the two, chewing gum would win on account that it hasn't stolen my life. In fact it helps keep my breath fresh and my teeth clean, so double points there.

Television on the other hand has stolen my life - it has robbed me of the opportunity to go out into the world and experience things for myself.

As soon as we start watching television, parts of our lives are taken from us never to be returned. I had experienced my first kiss with a girl dozens of times on Neighbours or Grange Hill long before it actually happened to me.

I've experienced falling in love, getting married, having children, growing old and even dying. All of these events have now been diluted and diffused for me by television and I will never get them back in their true form.

All the things that a man is supposed to encounter in his time, such as learning the dangers of getting drunk the hard way or exploring the mysterious workings of the female mind, have been done for me by the black box in the corner of my room and I will never be able to walk naively into them thanks to the likes of Men Behaving Badly or Sex and the City.

I've seen enough dramatised child births that when the miracle happens to me and my beloved, I fear that it will be somewhat of an anticlimax. What will I do when my wedding goes exactly according to plan and fails to be besieged with disasters like all the ones I have seen on EastEnders and Coronation Street?

Should I expect that I every partner I have will cheat on me at some point with the local GP? Or that every house I buy will have a dead body buried under the patio?

Maybe television's intervention will be of assistance and will help me cope with these traumatic events, to dumb down the pain. But I do not want to live an anaesthetised existence. I want to encounter things without preconceptions that will alter or lessen the experience.

How alien and surreal would the experience of moving to university for the first time and introducing yourself to the housemates that will be your companions for the next year at least be before Big Brother showed us what it is like to live with complete strangers who you may not even like for a sustained period of time?

If any of us actually finds ourselves stuck in the jungle, we're not going to die like we're supposed to - we'll already know which bugs are safe to eat, how to start a fire with only dry twigs and making a shelter should be easy thanks to Survivor and I'm a Celebrity…Get me out of here!.

We're not even permitted to cock-up our decorating escapades resulting in ghastly rooms that are in such bad taste they become inhabitable, as Changing Rooms and Home Front have turned us all into design experts with impeccable taste. I'll never buy a dodgy car thanks to Top Gear, and The Naked Chef has robbed me of the chance to ruin a perfectly good meal.

What on earth will I talk about at dinner parties? Oh no worries - The Dinner Party Inspectors will live it all out for me in advance anyway.

"Television is like the invention of indoor plumbing. It didn't change people's habits, it just kept them inside the house." - another extract from Alfred Hitchcock's worldly wisdom.

But for me, television doesn't prevent me from leaving the house, it just makes doing so a totally lifeless and unsatisfying experience. No night out will ever be as good as Ibiza Uncovered and no gig will ever be as much fun as being able to fly over the top of the crowd and land on the stage to look up the lead singer's nostrils like they do on Top of the Pops.

Films allow you experience things that you would never want to do in real life, like battling dinosaurs or going war, but television is obsessed with trying to be real and it infiltrates our lives at every turn. For all its power to change the world, all the medium seems to have done is steal my life.

I obviously need help. I would book myself into see a psychiatrist, but I've seen so many episodes of Frasier that I probably already know what they would say.