Eric Moe likes getting "Lost" in television.
"It confuses me," the 25-year-old Crosby resident said, complimenting ABC's Wednesday-night mysterious-island hit. "I watch so much TV that most of the time, 15 minutes into the episode, I know what's going to happen. With 'Lost' it's 10 minutes to the end of the show and I'm still going, 'Huh? What? How?'"
The country's hottest shows, to judge by an unscientific sampling of young TV viewers in the area, are also the hottest shows in the Brainerd lakes area. In addition to "Lost," teens and 20-somethings tend to favor "The O.C.," "Gilmore Girls," the "CSI" franchise and MTV reality shows like "The Real World" and "Road Rules." ("Desperate Housewives" fans should be glad the networks use Nielsen ratings and not my focus group: No one admitted to watching TV's top-rated show.)
Animated comedies are old favorites among young viewers, although not necessarily in their first-run time slots.
"I've got all 'The Simpsons' on DVD so I watch them all the time," said Jesse Delaney, 22, Brainerd. "I like the old ones a lot better. I haven't seen many of the new ones. I watch 'Family Guy' all the time, too."
Derrick Paulson, 21, Nisswa, finds Cartoon Network's Adult Swim lineup to be a nice way to end the day, citing "Family Guy," "Futurama" and Japanese anime series.
Matt Cummings, 22, describes himself as a "true addict" of "The Simpsons"; he has purchased every DVD set that's been released. He recently moved from Brainerd to East Gull Lake, where his antenna gets mediocre-to-poor reception.
"I still watch 'The Simpsons' even though it comes in fuzzy at my house," he said. "I have to move to the other side of the house and squint to see it. I do like the cartoon comedies more because I think they are more true-to-life than actors can be. There's more freedom. No one ages."
Friday may be Movie Night for a lot of area youths, but for others it's TV Night. The Sci Fi Channel's lineup of "Andromeda," "Stargate SG-1," "Stargate Atlantis" and the new "Battlestar Galactica" is a popular draw.
"I love 'Stargate,'" Moe said. "That's pretty much my favorite show at the moment."
Cummings is also a fan.
"Before I moved to the boondocks, I watched a lot of TV and I was addicted to the Sci Fi Channel," he said. "I was addicted to 'Stargate' and 'Farscape,' which I was sad to see go. It was a good show."
Television is statistically the most popular entertainment medium in the country, despite the fact that it has to compete directly with something movies and music don't: homework. Sci Fi Friday aside, most of TV's best shows air on school nights.
And for many, homework wins out. Emily Jones, 19, Brainerd, said she prefers doing work for her Central Lakes College courses in the evenings. Tiffany Morris, 18, Brainerd, prefers curling up with a good book to being a couch potato. Neither has ever watched "The Simpsons" voluntarily.
Even for those who like TV, homework and night jobs can get in the way. But TV buffs find a way to watch their favorite shows. Moe regularly has all eight slots of his VCR's timer programmed. It's something he started doing when he began working nights.
"I would prefer to watch them when they air, but I didn't have the ability so I taped them," he said. "And I started getting some series on DVD, like 'Stargate.' When I work up the money I'll get the next few discs. Eventually I plan to just buy the whole sets of 'SG-1.'"
Even for Paulson, a self-described casual TV viewer, DVD has allowed him to discover shows he might otherwise have missed.
"I watch a lot of DVDs of TV shows," he said. "I borrow them from people who own them, like seasons of 'South Park,' 'Family Guy,' 'Futurama,' 'Simpsons,' 'Firefly.' I've seen a few of the episodes (of 'Firefly') because my buddies were really into it."
And TV DVDs make great gifts, Delaney discovered. He recently picked up the first season of "Golden Girls" for his mom.
While people often go to movies or watch movie DVDs as a group, TV is generally thought of as a solitary endeavor. But that doesn't have to be the case. Thanks to his VCR, Moe can watch his favorite Wednesday shows on Sundays with his sister, Sarah. And by combining their VCR powers, they can watch both "Lost" and "Smallville," even though they air at the same time.
"Most of the time I'm on my own (when watching TV)," he said. "But I do what I call Family Night. My sister and I watch 'Lost,' 'The West Wing' and 'CSI: New York.'"
And, of course, TV has something movies don't have: commercial breaks. For social TV watchers, those 15 minutes of downtime during an hourlong drama provide a perfect opportunity to process, discuss and analyze. That's important when watching something like "Lost."
"You don't know what's going to happen," Moe said. "On 'Lost,' no one knows what the big monster is."
And once you're hooked into a mystery like that, even homework can't compete.
JOHN HANSEN can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5863.
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