I prefer off-the-wall TV to vacuuming. There's a gold mine of personality quirks just waiting to be found in those shows. For instance, the show "How Clean is Your House" is why I have at least one clean-freak heroine.
For a while, the show was strangely addicting, namely because I was trying to figure out why anyone whose house looks like the inside of a garbage truck would allow cameras and women in pink fuzzy gloves through the door. Or what if people came into your home all the time? Would you clean every day? Become immune to the clutter? The answer to those questions was Liza, the heroine of ANAM CARA who never met a dust bunny she didn't vanquish from her public house, The Knight's End.
For a while, the British show "Time Team" provided perfect fodder, too. The premise is a bit cheesy--think rescue archeology. But as the archeologists reconstructed life from bones found at digs, I learned much about fatal wounds. Unfortunately, it doesn't air in the States and the U.S. version doesn't offer quite the same fodder for a medievalist like me.
Lately, I've been finding slight artistic boosts in the ghost hunting, haunted travels shows that overrun the cable channels. I love the pseudo scientific explanations for the creepy crawlies, the psychics who "channel" long-past events and the unrehearsed reactions (i.e. screams) by the professional hunters who actually think they've actually spied a ghost.
So far the shows haven't inspired a ghost-hunting hero or a haunted heroine, but they don't require a lot of attention and are perfect for a quick four-second break while I focus on a problem. Mindless entertainment is often fertile ground for the seeds of a great story--at least that's what I keep telling myself.