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john doyle

My television-viewing life is a total mess.

The PVR talks back to me and says things like, "What are you doing watching that rubbish?" At least I think it was the PVR. Possibly it was a voice in my head, the same one that goes, "What are you doing telling people you drink 14 pints? It is well known that you sip a dry sherry of an evening, the cat dozing beside you, and the pair of you end up asleep and gently snoring while Pastor Mansbridge drones on about how he and his crack team of CBC reporters have a finger on the pulse of the United States."

The voice in my head talks in an Irish accent. Weird. But I don't worry about that. There's enough to fret about. Like poor Ian Hanomansing. It seems every time I turn on CBC News Network, Hanomansing is talking away, to nobody in particular, pacing in an empty CBC work area with only computers and cubicles for company. I think he's doing this for about six hours every evening. What has the poor man done to deserve this?

Whom or what did he diss? Possibly he failed the mandatory CBC test about the plot twists in Coronation Street. Maybe he was overheard saying that "the perfect centrepiece" arranged by "a celebrity florist" on Steven and Chris was an unholy mess. Maybe it's all explained in the CBC Annual Report, which I'll get around to reading as soon as I've caught up with The Walking Dead, which, it turns out, is not the title given to the CBC Annual Report.

Anyway. My point, and it's late coming, I know, is that we could all succumb to the belief that there is an awful lot to worry about. But we shouldn't. As ominous as the warnings might be that soon we will all be struggling with savage impecuniousness and dire poverty (except for the cable companies, of course), television will save us.

Why, just yesterday – that was Wednesday, according to the PVR that talks back to me – this great newspaper carried the headline "Global outlook turns darker." The International Monetary Fund is going around braying that the slowdown in the world economy will deepen if certain parties in the United States and Europe don't get their act together. Holy moly, but that's sobering news to greet you on a wet Wednesday morning in October. The IMF wants us all in a state of livid anguish and woe. That's its job.

But au contraire, I say. I sometimes say au contraire and other French phrases in my head to fight off that voice with the Irish accent. That's something between me and my mental-heath advisers. Never mind.

First thing to note is this: Anyone watching TV has had long advance warning of the global-outlook-turning-darker scenario. That is the entire plot of Revolution (Mondays, NBC, CITY-TV). In the near future, the world's energy calls it quits and folks (it being set in the United States, the characters have to be called "folks") live by candlelight and toil in the fields to survive. Now, it turns out that Revolution is a rubbish show, but television works in strange ways – even shows that are a crock are revealing about underlying themes in a country and a culture.

The second thing to note is that television always provides the ideal escapism in times of woe and worry. A decade ago, in the immediate post-9/11 period, which was supposed to bring "a new seriousness," along came Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie on The Simple Life and along came The Bachelor and then The Bachelorette. Applause and delight from a vast public wanting distraction and escape. Hey, it worked.

This week, mere hours after the IMF told us to worry much and begin foraging for food to see us through the coming economic apocalypse (I've stocked up on dry sherry), Fox made a small announcement. It is ordering up a reality show called Divorce Hotel. In it, a husband and wife on the brink of divorce are brought to a luxury hotel for a weekend. They get mediation, lawyers, the whole bit. On Sunday, they can leave as officially divorced singles. Or not.

You can sneer, but you'll watch, come the economic apocalypse. It will distract and horrify or entertain you. TV will save your sanity. Betcha. The PVR will be saying, "Don't worry. Watch this." So, don't worry. Now, Ian Hanomansing, he's a man with something to worry about.

Airing tonight

The U.S. vice-presidential debate (multiple channels, 9 p.m.) calls to mind what David Letterman said the other night: "You know your campaign's in trouble when you're looking for Joe Biden to turn it around." Ain't it the truth?

All times ET. Check local listings.