He has never seen a Super Bowl. In 1964 he didn't see the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and in 1986 he didn't see the Challenger space shuttle explode. He has never watched even one rerun of M*A*S*H.

In a nation of couch potatoes, Gordon Lark sticks out like a shovel in a bag of russets. Look at the other men in his age category. According to Nielsen Media Research, the average man 55 years or older watches 24 hours and 54 minutes of TV a week.Lark doesn't even own a TV. Never has and never will.

That puts Lark and his wife Cynthia, both biology professors at the University of Utah, among the paltry number of American households - just 2 percent - who don't own even one television set.

Utah playwright Aden Ross has never owned a TV either. Gary and Debbie Shapiro of Kaysville threw out their broken set 20 years ago and never bought a new one. Matt and Barbara James threw out their set even though it still worked.

"There never was a compelling need to have a TV," says Lark. He says that, despite the fact that he and Cynthia raised three children they could have easily plopped down in front of the tube.

"Obviously you can make great arguments about Cousteau specials and operas," he acknowledges. "But you do not exercise the creative mind. You don't participate at all."

Occasionally he'll take in a tennis match on one of the communal TVs at the U.'s Union Building. But on your average evening, when other people are tuning into "Murphy Brown" or "America's Most Wanted," the Larks settle in with library books. Gordon reads two books a week, Cynthia one every two days or so. Unlike the Larks, Matt and Barbara James once actually bought a TV. But they threw it in the garbage three years ago.

"This was an influence we just didn't need," Barbara James explains. She and her husband had already decided they wanted their home to be "a learning place," and in fact have taught each of their six children at home through most of their elementary school years.

When they first decided to unplug, the Jameses put their set in the closet. That was 11 years ago, when their oldest child was in the first grade.

Right away, says Barbara, they noticed that 4-year-old Adrian stopped having nightmares. Adrian had been watching Sesame Street and the usual cartoons. "But even in something like Bugs Bunny," Barbara notes, "there is an awful lot of crashing and banging."

The family brought out the TV again about six years ago, but it started to be a seductive influence again, she says. Not for the children, who by then had found plenty of other things to do, but for Matt, who was getting hooked again by football. That was when he unplugged the TV for good and chucked it.

If their older children want to watch TV now at a friend's house, it's their choice, says Barbara. "But we tell the younger kids `If your friend wants to sit down and watch TV then it's time for you to come home.' " Exceptions are made for sleepovers; the Jameses don't want to be rude or self-righteous. They would just rather see their children out playing, or even daydreaming.

"I've noticed that their imaginations are their own," says Barbara of her children. "They haven't been co-opted by Ninja Turtles."

Matt James, who is a family doctor, says that many of his patients' problems "are directly related to TV-watching." In addition to the rising level of violence and anxiety, he blames TV for an exacerbation of the condition known as attention deficit disorder, often referred to as hyperactivity.

"ADD kids can't keep their minds or even their eyes on one subject for 10 seconds," he argues. It is not just a coincidence, he says, that 10 seconds is the length of time most TV images stay on the screen.

Aden Ross, literary manager of the Salt Lake Acting Company, says that during the 19 years she taught college in Utah she noticed a gradual decrease in attention span among her students.

"It's as if they were almost physiologically unable to sit through an hour lecture," she says. Besides, she adds, TV "makes them weaker thinkers and horrible writers." Ross herself has never owned a television.

Barbara and Matt James' children consistently do well in school. Jenny, 17, and Adrian, 15, both earned the top grade-point average at Olympus Junior High School when they were in the ninth grade. Jenny is now tied with three other students for highest grade-point average in her senior class at Olympus High School.

Do the kids miss TV? "That's like asking if they miss liver pate'," says Barbara James. "They've never had it."

(Additional information)

TV or not TV

Frank Lloyd Wright: "Television: chewing gum for the eyes."

Groucho Marx: "I must say television is very educational. The minute somebody turns it on I go to the library and read a good book."

Utah playwright Aden Ross: "I'd rather read a mediocre book than watch TV."

Utah mother Barbara James: "With TV you have these people coming into your home at a special time each night. They're dependable. They never offend you. They never complain about dinner. It's so pleasant. But then you don't seek out human company."

"The Plug-In Drug" by Marie Winn: "It is easy to overlook a deceptively simple fact: One is always watching television when one is watching television rather than having any other experience."

Nielsen Media Research for 1990: Women 55 and over watch the most television - 28 hours and 13 minutes a week. Teenagers watch an average of 13 hours and 27 minutes; children ages 2 through 5, 18 hours and 38 minutes.