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April 23, 2014

Got Swine Flu? What to Watch

by Stephanie Earp, posted Nov 3rd 2009 1:01AM

My apologies to the pig farmers, but let's be honest: it's one thing to call this H1N1 when it's a distant threat, but when it gets personal, swine is the operative word.

I've got it. It's unpleasant to admit it - like copping to smoking - but there's the truth. I've been sick for over a week, and if you or someone you know has been sick that long, chances are it's the swine flu. Sorry to break it to you. I know you're probably trying to pretend it's just a cold. I did that for the first four days.

Sick for a week! I haven't been down like this since I was kid. And usually, when I'm down, I'm out. I sleep like the dead, emerging only for a few prime-time can't-miss shows. But this swine flu is a festering little bug - I'm confused, cranky and highly contagious but not knocked out enough to sleep the day away. Which brings me to my thesis: daytime TV.
My apologies to the pig farmers, but let's be honest: it's one thing to call this H1N1 when it's a distant threat, but when it gets personal, swine is the operative word.

I've got it. It's unpleasant to admit it - like copping to smoking - but there's the truth. I've been sick for over a week, and if you or someone you know has been sick that long, chances are it's the swine flu. Sorry to break it to you. I know you're probably trying to pretend it's just a cold. I did that for the first four days.

Sick for a week! I haven't been down like this since I was kid. And usually, when I'm down, I'm out. I sleep like the dead, emerging only for a few prime-time can't-miss shows. But this swine flu is a festering little bug - I'm confused, cranky and highly contagious but not knocked out enough to sleep the day away. Which brings me to my thesis: daytime TV.

Obviously, I've watched daytime TV before now, but never in such concentrated doses. And it's a strange landscape. Unlike the nuanced characters of prime time, who are usually good people struggling with difficult choices, the cast of daytime TV is kind of extreme.

My sick days usually start with 'The Price Is Right', where Drew Carey does his best Bob Barker impression. Obviously he doesn't have quite the same cantankerous glint in eye that Bob Barker has towards the end (give it time, Drew, it'll come) but he's not the nice guy I remember from his sitcom. It must be the job that's affecting him. I too would probably lose my patience if I had to guide people through the rules of Plinko over and over again.

I like to place bets with myself on how many times he'll have to say a contestant's name before they stop high-fiving the strangers in the audience and settle down to the game. The average, in case you are wondering, is four times. Watching 'The Price Is Right' has explained why I'm always broke - I have no idea what things cost. If I were a contestant - and sometimes I nod off during the second half of the show and dream that I am one - I'm sure Drew would give me the same subtly disdainful glances he gives the people who think a dinette set costs $600.

After 'The Price Is Right' is a dangerous time - start flipping channels and you could end up watching the news. Not a good idea. That's where you find out that a 36-year-old woman died of swine flu in Newfoundland last week. That's where you get a glimpse of hordes of people lined up to get a vaccine for the very illness you've got. You also find out there aren't enough inoculations to go around. This is where you start picturing a graveyard full of tombstones that say "Sorry, we ran out" and think about making up a will, even though your earthly possessions amount to a guitar and an ancient computer. No, do not watch the news. Watch 'The Tyra Show' instead.


Everyone says Tyra is trying to be Oprah (who I'll get to later), but she's more like Ricki Lake. Tyra's audience is young and fond of shouting - it can be a bit much. But the problem is, once you start watching 'The Tyra Show', it's hard to stop, because you have no idea where it's going to end up. Last week, what started out as a show about a couple who enjoy 'squashing' - where an obese partner practically smothers a thinner one, in a sexual way - turned into a public health message about weight control and healthy eating. As the show turned from internet smut peddlers to a registered nutritionist, I thought 'I must be dreaming.' If you can't rustle up a fevered hallucination, let Tyra Banks produce one for you.

Next up, it's a choice between 'Ellen' and 'Oprah'. With Ellen, you get a guarantee - she'll be funny, she'll dance, she'll be nice. If I do take a mid-afternoon nap, it tends to be while 'Ellen' is on. Which is not to say that she's boring, only that she's non-threatening. If you're feeling weak, choose Ellen. With 'Oprah', you never know what you're going to get. Seriously - is Oprah schizophrenic? One day I'm watching her softball a feature on a precocious preteen interviewing the equally eloquent Taylor Swift, and on the next she's got ten women infected with HIV by the same man.

After 'Oprah', I turn to the most extreme character of all - Judge Judy. Judy is mean! And it's fabulous. These same people, if they turned up on 'Dr. Phil', would be getting a mock-lecture on taking responsibility, but on 'Judge Judy' they are humiliated and then told to pay a fine. The fine is usually around the same amount the contestants on 'The Price Is Right' win in the opening bid - is this a coincidence? My addled brain says no. Like everyone else, I like Judy because she calls a spade a spade, seems to know when people are lying, and by design she's always the smartest person in the room. A part of me knows this is the ultimate cruelty - laughing at dumb people.

But if I'm going to die of the flu, I'd like to die laughing.

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