Beverly West and Jason Bergund missed their chance. From the half-assed-snarky, barely critical writing it’s rampant with to the too-cute categories it’s divided into, their TV Therapy: The Television Guide to Life is little more than hold-your-nose McConceptualizing. “At last!” begins the book with optimistic fervor. “A home theater companion for all of us in the TV generation who understand that television is far more than just a pleasant diversion from the daily grind; it’s a way of life.” If so, then why not treat it as such? But instead of dissecting the important moments of what they correctly imply has become the great common denominator of civilization, West and Bergund offer up “fun and informative sidebars” such as “Hawkeye’s Homilies.” Nowhere are there any actual life lessons. Nowhere are there even suggestions on what shows to tune in to if maybe, like many folks, you love the idea of television but generally hate what’s on the tube (a topic that the pair may have avoided for the reason that it could easily have taken up the whole book). Nope, all they have to offer is shallow, positive, useless analyses of shows we all know (“Party of Five reminds us of the strength and resilience of the bond that exists between siblings…”). Worse, when they’re trying to be comical, they take a tone that brims over with What Not to Wear– worthy witticisms: “First of all, we love the house! Second of all, just how many refillable prescriptions for euphorics are there just lying around that fabulous manse?” they say of The Osbournes. Sure, the show’s funny. And the drugs help. But after they make the requisite quips, the best West and Bergund can get out of the Osbournes’ “dysfunctional family” is this rather trite lesson: “[U]nderneath the fright wigs that we all occasionally don…is the familiar face of home.” Piss-poor therapy, when in fact the show stands as a monument to successful self-help: Slightly nutty mom and dad spoil the crap out of two of their bratty offspring and in the process manage to jump-start their, respectively, nonexistent and waning careers. In that perfectly resonant example of by-the-bootstraps uplift in an environment in which middle-class parents would kill to raise their kids, viewers are offered a million lessons far more practical than anything TV Therapy has to say. If the authors had bothered to look just a bit deeper at their subject matter, they might have come up with a useful, or at least an entertaining, book. Instead they decided to make lists. —Mike Kanin

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