Allow us, if you will, a little wishful thinking. Statistics show that 2.5 million fewer people are watching television this spring than were watching last spring.

We'd like to think that means people have finally awakened from their comas. They now realize that mindless television watching can drain productive hours out of a day.

We'd like to think they've finally seen through the hype and silliness and realized most problems in situation comedies could be solved with one single, honest conversation and that the reality shows are less real than the fantasy shows.

We'd like to think people have taken to the streets in droves to walk their dogs, chat with neighbors, admire the sunsets and smell the lilacs.

But we know they probably aren't. As industry insiders say, they are probably still watching the screen. Only now they are picking and choosing which screen (Internet, DVD, movie) and also recording what they want to see.

Yet there may be a silver lining in the decline in television interest. Capitalism always has been about choice, and apparently more and more Americans are choosing to set the rules about viewing and advertising. Meanwhile, the networks are scrambling and corporate America is twitching.

That is all good. American business doesn't like the unexpected. In industry, status quo is always the way to go. But when changes do appear in society's habits, it means businesses are forced to get creative, to tune into the desires of citizens again and re-invent the wheel.

It's what we call "progress."

Television — and television viewing habits — are indeed changing. But the "idiot box" is not going away any time soon. Yet just the fact Americans are finding ways to deal with the tube on their own terms instead of the terms of the networks is encouraging. The captive audience is making a getaway. Now businesses will have to use some Yankee ingenuity to craft their next move.

And who knows?

All these new choices may actually lead to some people choosing to get out, burn a little shoe leather and realize — once again — that the world will never fit inside a 2-foot box.