Confessions of a professional couch potato | Mann Overboard

Bill Mann
Posted 11/23/22

Hey, kids. What time is it? A. It’s the time of the year to watch more TV!  

How about getting paid to watch TV — in Honolulu, Hawaii? I did that.  

I also …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Confessions of a professional couch potato | Mann Overboard


Hey, kids. What time is it? A. It’s the time of the year to watch more TV! 

How about getting paid to watch TV — in Honolulu, Hawaii? I did that. 

I also “toiled” as the TV critic for dailies in San Francisco and Oakland. I’d file my TV column in the morning, then hit the golf course. Tough gig, huh? 

I’ve been asked what was the best part of being a professional TV critic. A. Being able to wear a bathrobe 24 hours a day. 

I spent hours working/watching at home, so I got to see our two kids a lot. Not sure they fully appreciated that. And being a TV columnist was probably the only newspaper gig that enabled this.

Being around my kids is why I stopped being a newspaper rock-music critic. I preferred being a TV watcher than interviewing Mick Jagger, Cat Stevens, Pink Floyd, or Led Zeppelin. 

We’re now entering the dark, indoor time of the year. TV-watching time! The pandemic increased people’s TV viewing time even further.

A lot of people here tell me they don’t have a TV. 

But, I ask, how do you watch all those shows and movies on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime? Probably on a computer then. You may not watch traditional broadcast and cable, but you’re still watching TV, just on a different medium. 

Each summer I’d be assigned to visit Hollywood (not my favorite venue) for the annual Television Critics Association press tour, where we TV critics would preview the upcoming new fall shows. 

And interviewing the cast members of “Seinfeld,” “Frasier,” and the likes of Bette Midler, ABC’s Sam Donaldson, and NBC’s David Brinkley wasn’t the worst thing. 

I’d then return to watch a flood of advance tapes of the upcoming fall network shows. 

Of the 50 or so that I’d get each summer, maybe five shows were worth watching. I’d be bleary-eyed from watching all of them.

There was a TV star living near me in Sonoma County: spiky-haired Food Network guru Guy “Diners, Drive-Ins” Fieri, whose hair was his key to fame. On TV, good hair is paramount, and Fieri had it. (But as the joke goes: Never let your daughter date anyone whose hair can cause severe tire damage.)

Then there were phone interviews the networks would set up for me, with people like Bob Hope (we always exchanged golf jokes) and “America’s Oldest Teenager” Dick Clark (he called me “a cynical bastard.” Who, me?). 

And the networks set me up with lunch interviews, with people like Alex Trebek, Vicki Lawrence, and zombie-movie icon Bruce Campbell. Tough gig, huh? 

Another benefit of the job: The tchotkes the networks sent. Cheesecakes, huge amounts of popcorn (thank you, “Simpsons” publicist), pillows and blankets with network and show logos on them, and T-shirts I still wear today. 

So watching TV was a great gig for me. 

I do watch Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu as well as broadcast and cable, things like PBS and MSNBC. I just don’t get paid to do it any more. 

I would not dissuade any of you from watching TV this winter.

Even if you don’t get the perks I did. 

I don’t watch TV. But as always, I do keep an eye on it. 

— Let’s talk TV. And whales! 

Quite possibly the most-watched local TV news footage ever aired on Portland’s KATU-TV in late 1970. 

Officials tried to figure out how to remove a decaying sperm whale carcass on a beach near Florence, Oregon. 

One braniac had a simple suggestion: dynamite. But not the amount and throw weight of dynamite they used. You can see the footage of the resulting big-bang explosion on Wikipedia and elsewhere. 

Out of the huge, foul-smelling blast cloud came huge chunks of blubber. And watching people desperately fleeing from flying fat and seeing one of the huge chunks land on — and collapse the roof of — an Oldsmobile is as funny as anything I’ve ever seen on live TV. 

And it wasn’t even scripted. How about a reality show called “America’s Funniest Cetacean Videos?“ 

(Erstwhile professional couch potato Bill may be watching the tube — and not being paid for it — as you read this. Contact Bill at