'Whisperer,' 'Hoarders,' 'Celebrity Rehab' and More: Using TV to Fix Your Life

Today's cuppa: Bag Ladies English Breakfast tea (thanks, boss!)

Don't make any New Year's resolutions -- they're worth as much as a great heap of leftover chicken bones anyway. Instead, if you want to improve your life, watch TV. That's right, watch TV. And worse than that, watch reality TV!

I know, I'm steering the four-wheeler straight off the reservation here, but I couldn't be more serious. If you let it, reality TV can help you save your life.

Of course, there are shows specifically intended to save your life, like "Surviving Disaster" and "Survivorman," but few of us face nuclear explosions and angry bears in our everyday experiences.

No, I'm talking about the reality shows that address things we wake up to each morning, such as ...

cesar-retouched.JPG Being a Doormat: Are your kids running over the top of you? Is the dog actually the master instead of you? Are you unable to assert your personal power? Let ABC's "Supernanny" and National Geographic Channel's "The Dog Whisperer" help you learn how to become the leader in your family, your pack and your life. For example, here's what I learned from Cesar Millan (left) and "Dog Whisperer." In the cases of both shows, it's not just about children or dogs -- it's about human nature and the reasons we let ourselves become bit players in our own lives.

Being a Slob Around the House: Really, who doesn't let the junk mail pile up or the dirty dishes sit once in a while? But when it gets out of hand, it can be demoralizing and paralyzing. Few of us go to the extremes of the poor folks in A&E's "Hoarders," but if you watch enough episodes and pay attention, you begin to see where the behavior and lack of 0516091129.jpgcontrol began, and at which point possessions began to own the possessor.

I recommend starting off a little slower, with Style Network's indispensable "Clean House," and in particular the "Messiest Home in the Country" specials. Series designer Mark Brunetz (seen at right dressed as host Niecy Nash) is even writing a book on the topic of clutter (the baby sibling of hoarding).

I know that every time I see one of these shows, I may dust, empty or fill the dishwasher, vacuum or pick up the newspaper. Every journey to mayhem and foolishness starts with a single neglected chore.

Being a Couch Potato: As the new owner of Nintendo Wii Fit Plus, I can state with absolute conviction that you can get a heckuva workout in front of the TV, if you're willing to put in the effort. But sometimes you need a little kick-start to get out of the recliner in the first place. I recommend "Dancing With the Stars." If all that music and all those twinkling toes don't get you up and boogeying, you may need some professional assistance.

There are plenty of exercise shows on TV, but I would suggest starting with Style's "Ruby." This story of one woman's effort to come back from life-threatening obesity always makes me think, if Ruby could start exercising at 500 pounds, what the heck is my excuse? If Ruby can get up and walk, I can get up and walk, for heaven's sake.

Bill_Klein_Jen_rnold_The_LittleCouple.jpg Being a Whiner: For this, I have to defer to TLC's "The Little Couple" (keep watching this space for a new interview with spouses Bill Klein and Dr. Jen Arnold, seen at left). These two folks face significant physical challenges, but deal with it by just getting on with their lives. Despite both being under four feet tall, they're professionally successful, cheerful, hard-working, sensible and devoted to each other. They don't pity themselves or want or need pity from others. Pity more folks lamenting their victimhood all over the media don't take a cue from Bill and Jen.

Being Addicted: It may not be drugs or alcohol, but most of us are hung up on something. Addictive behavior is addictive behavior, and VH1's "Celebrity Rehab," returning Jan. 7 for a new season (and again, watch this space for a new piece with addiction counselor Bob Forrest), is a great way to get a primer on addiction's causes and treatments. Dr. Drew Pinsky is serious about the topic, and despite the celebrity sensationalism of the show, gives serious advice to his patients and, by extension, the TV audience.

This is just my list; I'm sure I have your own. But in every case, the change happens when you take the inspiration from the TV show and bring it into your reality. Best of luck in 2010!