Credit: (Illustration by Kyle T. Webster)

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It sounded so easy—getting paid to watch trash television! But you try spending the best years of your life transcribing Maury. So, thousands of Date My Moms, a couple Marie Osmond Dolls, and just one Oprah’s Roots later, Channel Serf’s had all the guilty pleasure he can take. So as a parting gift, here are the Top 5 lessons learned from a lifetime at the bottom of the TV barrel:

Lesson No. 5: Things Could Be Worse: You Could Be Ann Curry

Every family has its middle child, and The Today Show’s is Ann Curry. Perfecting the art of the also-ran, the Jan Brady of news readers braves indignities large (being passed over for Katie Couric’s job) and larger (being made to host To Catch a Predator). But the unsinkable Ann Curry floats on, even after NBC tossed her from a plane—and lost her—during a sweeps-week ratings stunt. The upside? Producers gave her a parachute…that time.

Lesson No. 4: It’s All About the O!

It’s impossible to resist Oprah Winfrey’s outsized goodness—especially when it’s pummeling you to a bloody pulp. Who can endure a full hour of Oprah without emerging battered by all that relentless generosity? And while Oprah’s Roots suggested some are actually born to give away Saturns, Oprah is much more sanguine: There’s tremendous good inside everyone, she always reminds us—but especially inside Oprah.

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Lesson No. 3: If Life Gives You Hurricanes, Make Hurricane-ade!

Not since The Last Emperor has a little kid grabbed the reins of power as fast as Anderson Cooper. Impeccable hair, combined with the worst natural disaster in American history, proved a perfect storm for the career of CNN’s boy anchor. And while Angelina Jolie: Her Mission and Motherhood cemented Cooper’s journalist street cred, it was quizzing Kenny Chesney about being gay that makes Mr. Not Quite 360 one hard act to, well, top.

Lesson No. 2: It Takes a Tough Gal to Wear a Tender Fat Suit

Not since Alias has a vixen taken to disguises quite like Tyra Banks. Whether waddling in a massive fat suit or going “deep undercover” as a pole dancer, Banks leaves no stone unturned in her never-ending search for the blindingly obvious: Are thin people treated better than obese people? Why do men like strip clubs? And today, fresh from re-creating her seminal Sports Illustrated cover, the now 161-pound supermodel Nancy Drew gets to the heart of her latest mystery: Why do editors love Photoshop?

Lesson No. 1: There’s Nothing Wrong With a Snoozy Ol’ Chatfest That One Angry Lesbian Can’t Fix

Sure, Ellen DeGeneres proved that you could be a sweet, out lesbian and host a daytime talk show. But it took Rosie O’Donnell to prove you could do it and alienate the whole country, one feud at a time. With her sunny former self gone the way of that crush on Tom Cruise, a bitch-slapping Rosie turned the sleepy View into daytime TV’s best grudge match. With Ripa, Trump, “ching chong”s, and even Barbara Walters smarting from Rosie’s jabs, ratings soared. Now, if only they could settle on a nice black lady to plant beside her.