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Mom and Dad Were Wrong You Can Learn Things From TV — Here’s a Book to Prove It

July 8, 2008

By Amy Carlson Gustafson, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

Jul. 8–Forget brain rot. You can actually learn stuff while watching TV — and we’re not just talking about PBS or the Discovery Channel, either. In Jeff Alexander’s new book, “A TV Guide to Life: How I Learned Everything I Needed to Know From Watching Television,” the 38-year-old, who lives in Minneapolis with his wife and young son, reveals countless lessons learned watching TV. The book’s 14 chapters include Saved by the Bell: School on TV; What Would We Do, Baby, Without Us?: Parenting; I’m No Superman: TV Medicine; Somebody Save Me: Superpowers and Magic Spells.

A former writer for “A Prairie Home Companion,” Alexander recaps TV shows for the Web site Television Without Pity (he writes under the moniker M. Giant), has his own blog, Velcrometer, and contributes to the Web site BloggingDad.

Here’s what he had to say in a recent conversation about TV:

Q What was the first thing you remember learning from watching TV that you actually implemented into your life?

A “I used to watch ‘Family Ties’ back in the ’80s when I lived at home with my parents and my sisters. I think they might disagree, but I think watching that helped me learn how to get along better with my family. I may have argued less with them when I was watching it.”

Q What have you learned from writing about the TV show “24″ for the Web site Television Without Pity?

A “What I learned from ’24′ isn’t necessarily what ’24′ wants us to learn. I think part of the message

of ’24′ is that there are people in the government who have to break the rules and go off book, and we need those people because they’re the ones who get things done. I’m suspicious of that message without getting too political.”

Q If you could be any TV character who would it be?

A “I think I would like to be Doctor Who, because he’s 900- some years old, he gets to travel through time and space and go wherever and whenever he wants. He’s powerful and brilliant.”

Q What TV character do you wish would never have been created?

A “Scrappy-Doo. He just sort of wrecked the whole chemistry of the Scooby gang. He was kind of the cliche. And Mabel on “Mad About You.” When Paul and Jamie had their baby I think it changed the dynamic of the show, and that’s when I quit watching it.”

Q If any show was going to keep you inside on the first nice spring day of the year, what would it be?

A ” ‘Battlestar Galatica.’ Because I did stay home for that and it was a Friday night, and I didn’t go anywhere, and I sat home and watched the season premiere.”

Amy Carlson Gustafson can be reached at 651-228-5561.

What: Jeff Alexander reads from his book “A TV Guide to Life: How I Learned Everything I Needed to Know From Watching Television” (Penguin, $14)

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Barnes and Noble, Har Mar Mall, 2100 North Snelling Ave., Roseville

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Copyright (c) 2008, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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