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Dreamlands for Our Critics : If you could enjoy your favorite pastime anywhere, where would it be? Calendar’s film, music, pop, theater, art and TV critics reveal their wishes. : Give Me My Multi-Screen Home Theater

TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

I’m always getting invitations to screenings of new television movies.

Deluxe accommodations. Theater. Big screen. Cushy seats. Refreshments. Doting publicists who are respectful of your incredible power and importance. Producers who are cognizant of your brilliance and tell you how much they admire your work just before you sit down to judge theirs. Viewing TV this way, you get the works.

Not interested.

For me, there is only way to watch TV. The no-frills way. Low budget, low end, low maintenance.

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In my office at home. My theater.

I do this almost daily. My routine rarely varies. I lean toward work clothes with character. So, hair matted, unshaven and unkempt, I choose my attire for the day, selecting from my closet one of several soiled terry cloth robes. I put on the robe, digging my hands into the pockets, feeling the accumulated food crumbs, paper clips, rubber bands and crumpled tissues while reveling in my own grubbiness. Aren’t those crumbs from the bagel I ate while watching the William Kennedy Smith trial on CNN? And yes, that is the tissue I used to blow my nose during “The Return of Eliot Ness.”

Familiarity. Continuity. The good life.

It is 7 a.m. when I typically gather my stained and slovenly self for the exciting day ahead, enter my office, fall into my genuine vinyl swivel chair with the splits in the seat, lean back, prop my feet on my desk and simultaneously absorb CNN, “Today,” “Good Morning America” and “CBS This Morning.” Yes, that’s right. . . .

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Four sets.

I keep the sound turned up only on the large one while watching all four, a practice I have carried over from my assignment monitoring media coverage of the Persian Gulf War. What began then as something laborious evolved into a process I can’t live without. Thus, after the war had ended, my addiction endured and, through TV, I continued to see the world as a fly sees it: in multiples.

Once you’ve watched four flickering screens simultaneously, anything less is unsatisfactory or frustrating, if not flat-out excruciating. It’s the electronic equivalent of group sex. Oh, I’ve tried kicking the habit by watching TV in a room containing only one set. But it was all to no avail. So preoccupied was I with wondering what was on the channels I wasn’t watching that I was unable to concentrate on the channel I was watching.

So here I am now at 7:30 p.m., a human shrine to crumbs and crud, beady eyes darting from screen to screen, keeping vigil on “Hard Copy,” “A Current Affair,” “Alf” and the Portland Trailblazers playing the Golden State Warriors--but missing “Jeopardy!” It’s obvious to me now what my problem is.

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Four sets are just not enough.


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