“A TV Guide to Life: How I Learned Everything I Needed to Know from Watching Television” by Jeff Alexander

Full disclosure: Jeff is a friend of mine, and his blog Velcrometer inspired me to start my own in 2002. I’m going to say positive things about A TV Guide to Life no matter what. Fortunately, Jeff made that pretty easy by writing a clever, funny, entertaining book.

Reality check: A TV Guide to Life will not change yours. It is not profound and deep. It contrasts life on TV and so-called real life. It had chapters with titles from TV theme songs, divided into several shorter subtopics. It’s eminently readable in short bursts–in other words, to follow a heavy read, for a distracted parent, at a boring job, or even in the bathroom.

We all know how to do CPR from watching TV, right? Except that in CPR classes, they claim that doctors and lifeguards always get it wrong on TV. They do it with their hands out in front of them rhythmically pressing on the victim’s sternum lightly enough to not even get out of breath. But then the Red Cross tells you that you have to have your arms straight down under you, resting the weight of your entire upper body on the victim’s chest and using only the heel of your hands, while you fling the force of your head and shoulders into the victim’s chest cavity with each compression. Which sounds really painful for the victim, not to mention tiring for you. And then they tell you not to actually do that to your classmates upon whom you’re practicing, and when you ask why it’s done differently on TV, they say it’s because if you do it correctly, you’ll break the person’s ribs. And this is the right way to do it?

Jeff’s encyclopedic knowledge of TV is both impressive and frightening. I didn’t watch half of the shows he mentioned. But I’d _heard_ of almost all of them, and was familiar with enough of them to enjoy the anecdotes even if I’d not watched a show.

If you’re a fan of 24 (which Jeff knows well since he is the Television without Pity recapper for that show), there’s lots to love. Ditto for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Law and Order(s), Dr. Who, Lost, hospital shows, cop shows, sci-fi shows and many more.

Buy this book; Jeff is a good guy with a cool wife and a cute kid. Read it now. Because if you don’t, it won’t be nearly as easy to recall recent developments on the shows you love once the new season starts in the fall.

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