How boring is television? Television is so boring, according to Alan Caruba, that it rots your brain, leads to drug and alcohol addiction, encourages divorce and speeds society's demise.
Which leaves "waxy yellow buildup" and "ring around the collar" as seemingly the only travesties in life not caused by an idle brain.
Boredom is Caruba's speciality.
Well, boredom and public relations.
From his home in Maplewood, N.J., Caruba, 53, founded The Boring Institute in 1984.
Intended as a spoof of the much-hyped entertainment world, the institute publishes yearly lists of the most boring celebrities, the most boring films and "Fearless Forecasts of TV's Fall Flops."
Caruba knows a lot about hype. For 20-plus years he has been in the public relations business (his real job) and before that he was a journalist.
"I certainly have a very fine sense of hype," Caruba says in a phone interview from his home, which he has shared with his parents for most of his bachelor life. "It's almost as if I'm the doctor of hype."
When it comes to television predictions, the doctor is in. Most of the time, anyway.
This fall's picks as the best of the worst:
E.A.R.T.H. Force, Family Man, Sons and Daughters and Uncle Buck on CBS; Lifestories, Ferris Bueller, Parenthood, The Fanelli Boys, and Hull High on NBC; Cop Rock and Going Places on ABC and D.E.A., Parker Lewis Can't Lose, and Beverly Hills, 90210 on Fox Broadcasting Co.
E.A.R.T.H. Force was canceled after three episodes. Sons and Daughters probably won't make it onto the small screen until next year.
The rest of Caruba's cancellation predictions have yet to materialize, but the shows' ratings are lackluster.
Caruba's forecast is "very successful," he says, "mostly because it's incredibly accurate, if I may be so vain."
Caruba may be vain, but he also is good at getting the media to pay attention to him.
His lists have generated hundreds of radio interview requests, several talk-show appearances and stories in The Boston Globe, The New York Times and Newsday.
Among last year's TV cancellation predictions: Peaceable Kingdom (axed), Baywatch (gone) and Sister Kate (outta here).
Caruba says he has never heard a word from anyone at any of the networks about his yearly forecast. "I am widely and universally ignored by the networks in terms of their programers."
Not one would comment on Caruba's list for this column.
"It doesn't take a genius to predict failure in television," said Brad Turell, Fox's senior vice president of publicity.
"Television is addicting," he says. "It encourages people to abandon their lives and live vicariously through this emptiness on TV."
And though the mind seemingly zones out while watching the small screen, in reality heavy TV viewing "creates a constant state of tension," Caruba says.
"Television's real secret message is that the viewer is somehow inadequate. There's something wrong with the viewer's life because they're not a superstar, they're not rich and famous."