I don't think that my exasperated and annoyed attitude is due to my age. While I am just past fifty-something, I don't feel that I am getting curmudgeonly a la Andy Rooney. Nevertheless, the world is irritating me. You are probably quietly asking yourself, what's got Campbell's underwear all in a knot this time?

Well, I'll tell you. It's television. Yep, the boob tube is driving me over the brink. I have long since given up on all TV programming save for the news. I would have been in a padded cell with a permanent IV drip of benzodiazepine had I not avoided most of what is broadcasted over the airwaves. I'm not at all interested in the nonsensical searches of straight or gay men and women searching for meaningful relationships with equally superficial straights or gays. Nor am I drawn to watching some one time high school cheerleader pretending to be a cutesy version of Bob Villa while directing the redoing of someone else's home for less than a thousand dollars. And as for the self-absorption of a bunch of narcissistic people playing out a soft version of Golding's, Lord of the Flies, I don't care whether any of them survive not being voted off the Pearl Islands or anywhere else.

I am interested in the real world and want to stay informed with what really does matter: war, terrorism, the economy, and politics. My day of serious discerning starts early. I go to my home-office with a cup of amaretto coffee, check my e-mails, and write for a couple of hours. After getting my brain going, I do some stretching exercises, crunches, and ride my stationary bike for a half hour. My entire exercise routine takes about forty-five minutes. To make the drudgery of my fitness regimen go faster, I flip on the TV to watch an early morning news program. Until recently, my old favorite presented the news in a slightly upscale BBC-esque manner. However, to appeal to the younger and more hip generation than myself, it is plumbing the superficial and shallow depths of cutesy while attempting to be a little edgy.

Then they went to an anchor that smiles a totally unknowing nervous smile at everything. When she interviews someone, instead of delving into the topic, she nervously tries to find her next question on her script. In response to this pretty airhead's lack of ability, I've resorted to flipping channels to delete her and her inane banter.

You are probably asking yourself, what is Campbell looking for? Well, I would like a cross between the BBC and NPR. If I were a media mogul, I'd hire Peter Jennings from ABC, Jack Cafferty, and Judy Woodruff from CNN. That's my idea of the news-three people with brains and charm.

Until my dream team is on the air, I will still have to flip between the often-frivolous repartees between pretty talking heads. My only respite from the giddy programming is the commercials. Here again, stupidity reigns. Some dufus, who should be fired from a bank's mortgage department, complains about his ineptitude in closing a loan. Then there is the guy hawking software tutorials with the concern of a physician treating a terminally ill patient. Then there is the whole category of commercials that deals with one's bodily functioning below the belt. There is a couple hauling a mobile outhouse down the highway behind them, or he woman praising her perfect feminine hygiene product for those "not so perfect days."

I've had it, but I am doing more than just complaining about it. I am going to do something constructive as a public service-I can't be the only person in America stressed out by TV. Therefore, I am publicly throwing down the gauntlet before the media moguls of television and the advertising executives. I VOLUNTEER! For a price, I will preview all TV programs and commercials. For slightly less than a six-figure salary and a modest benefits package, I will use my keen eyes and ears for non sense and superficiality. I have developed a rating system similar to the one that the motion picture industry uses. My system utilizes the following rating code for both TV programs and commercials:

IQ-stands for serious consideration

BSB-stands for benign superficial banter

MI-stands for mentally impaired

Before each program or commercial, a little box would appear at the top left of your television screen containing my personal rating system. If, after being warned by my code, you still wish to watch either the program or the commercial, you are free to do so. However, my system will allow for the more discerning to turn the channel or at least to mute the nonsense. I hope that my public service will become a viewing reality in time for the fall programming schedule.

The article appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on 6/3/04.