The hypothesis that television is akin to freeways or malls was a shocker. Having just "driven" home from school, (I use quotes because is going 0 miles per hour really driving?) an act I do daily, I can say that it resonates when considering public TV viewing, an act I rarely do and wish I did even less (much like driving from USC to Sherman Oaks in rush hour). Kowalski's line describing "detached involvement" -- "Perhaps no aspect of the freeway experience is more characteristic than the sudden realization that you have no memory of the past ten minutes of your trip." is one I have often. In fact, I'll have NPR on the radio and not even notice the shows have changed until I'm stuck in one of Dante's lesser-known rungs of hell: when you've been trapped in your car for so long the news cycle repeats itself.
Before I get into the similarities I noticed between my public TV viewing experience and driving (Malls? Do those even still exist?) I'd like to make one point: Thinking about television as a window as having replaced other means, like, oh, say, BOOKS as windows is made especially complicated when the writer of said books we are reading use a style of language that is basically incomprehensible. These texts, in particular Morse, uses such dense language that it is painful to read in a way that is not dissimilar from trying to comprehend a nuanced TV show being shown in the middle of a night club.
That said, I "watched" teevee at a restaurant called Tuning Fork in Studio City. I went there for lunch yesterday and I had never been there before. I was not expecting bougie restaurant to even have TVs, but there they were-- two flat screen TVs front and center. I made sure I sat on the side of the table that faced them. One screen was showing a tennis match and the other was showing a soccer game. Now, I put watch in quotes because it's similar to my experience "driving"-- I was having lunch with a good friend who has been having a bad time lately, the TVs were just far enough away that I could not read the score, and the volume was muted, so I wasn't really "watching" in the traditional sense, or at least in the way that I watch at home. As a TV writer, I respect TV. I know full well how much work went into the creation of any episode of any program and so I watch it with singular focus, as I hope people will do for my shows someday. At this bar however, chunks of time would pass and something on the screen would catch my attention and I'd remember that I was "watching" and try to figure out what had just happened. In this way, I could see the commonalities between the two activities. But at least I can tell you the route I took home (Vermont to the 10 to the 405 to Wilshire to Sepulveda ...) and the annoying white Chevy Cruiser that kept cutting me off. I can't tell you who won either game.