TV marathons paralyze sofa spud with hypnotic power

Some of my best friends don’t have cable — I’m a pretty open-minded guy — but their excuse always kill me: They’ve had cable, but spent too much time watching it.

Whatever. That’s right up there with saying, “You know, I’ve really gotta get rid of these legs. I just walk around all the time and never get anything done. And don’t even get me started on the hours I waste putting on pants and shopping for shoes.”

But I’m starting to see their point. Especially when it comes to Bravo, or, as it’s known around Casa de Couch, The Weekend Killer. It always starts innocently enough. I’ll be almost out the door on the way to a productive Saturday when I’ll stumble across the last 10 or 15 minutes of any one of the channel’s cavalcade of reality shows.

I’ll just see how this ends, I’ll say. Once it’s over, I’ll reach to turn it off when, what’s this? The next episode? Well, I guess I don’t really NEED groceries. I’ve got, what, a bagel and some ketchup?

The next thing I know, it’s three days later and the neighbors have come to investigate the smell.

It’s not that the shows are about anything that appeals to me. I even consider several of their subjects — exercise (“Work Out”), fashion (“Project Runway”) and food that doesn’t come from a drive-through (“Top Chef”) — my mortal enemies.

Apparently I’m just completely helpless when it comes to the power of the TV marathon.

Take Bravo’s “Hey Paula,” in which “American Idol” space cadet Paula Abdul let viewers know what was on her mind — “I’m tired of people not treating me like the gift that I am!” — while encouraging our own Norm Clarke to sniff her, allegedly because she was wearing a sample of her new perfume.

Thankfully, the marathon of its entire trainwreckalicious season was only 31/2 hours or I might never have left the house again.

It doesn’t have to be on Bravo. Last week, I got sucked into a string of CMT’s “I Want to Look Like a High School Cheerleader Again,” which takes 10 women — including a Las Vegan named Randi — and whips them back into pom-pom shape. It wasn’t great TV or even good TV — I think it’s just filling time while the channel readies “Watching Paint Dry with Celebrities” — but I couldn’t turn away.

It doesn’t even have to be a marathon, as long as it’s a huge chunk of time. A couple of weeks back, despite having no knowledge of the movie and no interest in musical theater, I sat transfixed as MTV broadcast Broadway’s “Legally Blonde: The Musical.” For three hours. I still haven’t watched enough wrestling and bass fishing to cancel that out.

But the granddaddy of them all, El Numero Uno Timewastero, is Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Orange County” (premieres at 10 p.m. Tuesday). It’s like crack, deep-fried, dipped in chocolate, sprinkled with sugar on top of a stack of porn.

The series follows five 40-something women picked to represent quite possibly the most pampered county on the planet. The standouts are Lauri, who’s planning her wedding and trying to squeeze 200 guests onto the groom’s 200-acre ranch, and Vicki, who’s dealing with the stigma of downsizing into a 4,000-square-foot, $2 million home, a transition that would be made so much easier if only her husband would let her spend in the mid-six-figures for a swimming pool that can shoot fire.

Then there’s the new housewife, Tamra, who was chosen through a process that’s as interested in the applicant’s house as her family. And, like the other ridiculously out-of-touch women, “The Real Housewives of Orange County” isn’t above having a little fun at her expense.

Whenever she says the word huge, for example, the action cuts to a shot of her overly implanted chest. It’s done more or less discreetly — no buh-OOOH-guh sound effects or anything — but it’s not fair to single her out. You apparently can’t be on the show without having gone under the knife in a major, hey-look-at-these way.

“I am the hottest housewife in Orange County,” Tamra says. Actually, she’s not. She’s lovely and all, but she’s not exactly a housewife. All the women have careers in real estate, insurance or marketing.

So they’re not real. They’re not housewives. At this point, I’m not entirely sure they’re even in Orange County.

But string 10 or 12 episodes together, and I’ll be there. Eating my bagel and ketchup.

Getting real: “House Hunters,” HGTV’s most popular series, devotes a week to helping Las Vegans find homes (10 p.m. today-Friday).

Christopher Lawrence’s Life on the Couch column appears on Mondays. E-mail him at clawrence@reviewjournal.com.

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