Television will kill you. It is the latest in a long line of things that are reported to be deadly. These include: fruit, urban air, bread, alcohol, over exertion, under exertion, soft cheese, rugby, playing against Louis Suarez, being Iraqi, any car made by General Motors, bacon, ham, any processed meat, in fact any food at all, lack of sleep, the blue light that comes off your mobile phone and especially: running across the street in London to avoid a Cadillac, while on a late night bar crawl, eating a bacon sarnie while checking your messages.
According to the latest research, carried out by actual scientists, watching three hours of TV a day is not something that you are likely to survive. That means that you can start watching the new series of 24, in which SPOILER ALERT: Jack Bauer will do something surprisingly violent, for a respected upholder of the law, to anyone who gets in his way. You could start to watch it, but what is the point as you will only get through episode three before expiring of an idiot box related condition.
This can not be right. I can watch three hours of TV while eating breakfast. This must be research undertaken by some comedy institution that no-one has ever heard of. Well, I can tell you right now that the students at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, would beg to differ.
The researchers followed 13,000 students for over eight years and found those that habitually watched more than three hours of TV a day were likely to die younger than those that did not. A fifth of those that died early, did so as a result of heart failure, probably brought on by that episode of Game of Thrones called the Red Wedding. Or the episode with the trial by combat. Or any of the other ones.
What is most surprising about this is that they found some students who DIDN'T watch three hours of TV a day. Who watches less than that? What do they do with their time? It is like those people that say they only drink a glass of wine a day. As if they re-cork the bottle and put it back in the fridge. Of course they do.
The problem with television is that it is a lean backward medium. You are sedentary when you are watching it. This is very bad, so we are constantly being told. The trouble with that is that being sedentary is the thing we like doing the best. It is what animals in the wild like doing best too. This suggests that nature, in all it's infinite complexity has determined, after millions of years of evolution, that being sedentary is the key to life.
Have you ever been to a lion enclosure? Did you see any lions when you were in there? On the off chance you did, were they engaged in playful romps? Were the lionesses making merry with a game of Catch Me with the males of the pride? No, they were not. They were most likely as motionless as a Henry Moore statue. Occasionally one might yawn, but energetic they were not. Perhaps they had not read the Daily Mail, because if they had they would have been doing press ups and joining a gym.
This behaviour is not restricted to the kings of the jungle. Every adult animal on earth, seems to have adapted to a life of doing nothing much at all for most of the day. The average family cat only sleeps for 24 hours a day because there are only 24 hours in a day. If it could squeeze in a couple of extra hours napping, it would.
The meat eating animal kingdom seems to be programmed to hunt for food every few days or so and then sleep it off for the rest of the week. Which is exactly how we shop for groceries. We charge around Sainsbury's in a frantic search for sustenance, desperate to get out of there as quickly as possible, before someone else's child throws up on us, or the prices go up, so that we can spend the rest of our time watching England triumph at the World Cup. Or something.
The only animals that do not do this, and who are on the move constantly, are ruminants. And cows are not synonymous with health, beauty or intelligence. I'd rather be a lion.
Nature has decreed that we live slow and die young. Is it really wise to mess with nature?
While you ponder that, please pass the crisps, Jack Bauer is about to render some poor sap permanently motionless.