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Comfort me, oh tabloids, as I switch off the TV

Okay, that's it. The TV's off.

I've been ill, dear reader. And when writing in this state - "hepatitis yellow" journalism, in John Waters's words - let me attest that weekly tabloids can be as soothing as purple Fanta, cheese on white bread, and handfuls of chewable painkillers.

Television is too strident, too complicated. Watching Cosmo TV's plainly abusive Sex and the City marathon - and trying to understand Carrie's disquisitions on love and gender - is more difficult to process than Freud, who also posed teasing, philosophically dense questions, and, of course, meditated on "widdlers" (see the case of "Little Hans") and the damage and titillation they may inspire.

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So the TV is off, and the mags are up. I have studied them, and am happy to impart the best of what I have learned.

Reading about TV is simple: There is a lot of trouble in the land of The Bachelor, once again, and the tabs have SparkNoted this crisis for me very well.

After announcing, in March, that they would rate their happiness on a scale of 1 to 10 as "20" (Do you remember when Spinal Tap's sound dial, which went to "11," was preposterously funny?; 100 per cent is now a measure of the faintest of enthusiasm), Bachelor Jake Pavelka had his tawdry little rose tossed back in his face by a certain former Hooters waitress named Vienna Girardi, who had been seen "planting tiny kisses" all over Gregory Michael of TV's Greek. Pavelka allegedly "has no tolerance for infidelity."

Meanwhile, a Bachelorette waits in the wings to reveal her true love. The latest small-screen spinster is the slimmed-down Ali Fedotowsky, spied recently "swathed in a form-fitting minidress and $18,000 worth of Susan Foster jewels."

I love the language of these tele-romances ("swathed" alone is worthy of Joan Collins at her literary height). I love the dismal, squalid love. In Isn't She Great, Simon & Schuster editor Michael Korda quoted Jacqueline Susann on people reading her books as they headed home, exhausted, each day. These people, she observed, "can get off the subway and go home feeling better about their own crappy lives and luckier than the people they've been reading about."

As the tabloids lay bare the cheap mendacity underlying the sickening modern fairy tale that is the Bachelor series, they do, indeed, make a body feel better - feel lucky not to have pledged one's love to a vast, mustard-haired planter of tiny kisses.

Yet they get it wrong, too. Reading about Gary Coleman these last weeks got harder, not easier. Protected by no one (he had to sue his parents as a child for his fair share of his own income), and ill his whole life, his death has been marked by the kind of venality that is never allowed near stars of any stature.

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Last week, images of his filthy home, and the spray of blood where his head had landed, filled two of the tabs. This week, his wife (from whom he is widely rumoured to have been estranged) and ex-girlfriend are ravening over his estate, an estate that consists, more or less, of a broken-down house and toy-train collection.

Now, TMZ, anticipating the papers' next move, has put up footage from the 2009 documentary Midgets vs. Mascots, revealing Coleman frontally nude. They have been threatened with a lawsuit, but the move led to a new round of interest in the star, and heartless headlines like Whatchu Talkin' 'Bout? No Funeral for Coleman; and more directly, Gary Coleman Was Not Small!

The tabloids' hatred of celebrity (anathema to the lower middle class) is so fanatical that humanity, compassion and love are as far away as the champagne wishes and caviar dreams that Robin Leach once crowed over.

It's not all insalubrious gossip and vile malfeasance in the tabs, however. I learned a great deal this week. UFCs, the new ring superstars also known as MMAs or mixed-martial-artists, are less cool than I had thought. Last week, a 26-year-old cage fighter named Jarrod Wyatt allegedly drank some 'shroom tea and lost his temper. He then allegedly beat his good friend Taylor Powell to death after ripping out his bloody, still-beating heart.

What if these maniacs form real friendships and start travelling in packs? What if the tabs have just given me a killer movie pitch where Night of the Living Dead meets Reefer Madness? (I would update it to hallucinogens, of course, and shoot in ultraviolent 3D. Only serious offers will be considered, you slavering film producers.)

The tabs are still milking Brad and Angelina, too, I note, from my daze. I am almost tempted to return to my TV. "I don't love you any more," Pitt is alleged to have told the wax-faced mother of his million babies. Get it straight tabs: We don't love any of this any more. A whole issue on Snooki's personal hygiene, world view and attempts to solve complex equations with an eyeliner pencil while shooting tequila would be a 150-per-cent better story!

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Well! Al Gore, the darling of liberals for so long - so beloved that we conveniently forgot about Tipper - is finally in the tabloids' web. So long have they sat silently, patiently, cunningly.

And now the accusations are pouring out. The alleged affair with Larry David's ex-wife. Then, this week, a nauseating claim of a 2006 sexual assault, allegedly involving a badly shaken masseuse who claims to be in possession of pants covered in Gore DNA.

Why are they after Gore? Because he makes people feel bad for not detaching the rings of their six-packs (which catch on dolphin snouts), and for driving cars and leaving Sasquatch-sized carbon footprints. And we can't have that.

The tabloids were here this week; they are here every week to make all of us feel better. So what if we're ugly, Baconator-eating, commemorative-knife-collecting simpletons? Or merely not famous, and entitled to that small, truly delicious piece of pie?

We are happy with our brioche, because at least we don't have an expiry date on our backs - when that stamp starts to glow, it's time for the tabloids, our watchmen, our National Guards, to unleash the hounds.

And time for us to watch the horrible mayhem and mortifying events, from a snug, blanketed distance.

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