Flipping Through The Channels
So, I wasn't really 'up' for writing anything, nothing in my head or heart that I needed to get out, and there was no one around . . . I was all alone with nothing to do, so I turned on the TV. The channel that instantly appeared before me was the channel a few of my grandkids were last watching . . . some dreadful, but very brightly colored, jr high school set sitcom that provided absurdly exaggerated facial expressions and outlandish vocal emphasis, as well as the intrusively disconnected from what was actually happening laugh track, to let you know how hilariously funny what you're watching is. This didn't appeal to me, and had me pondering if I could reasonably oversee my grandchildren's TV viewing, so, I began to flip through the channels.
The common axiom 'all these channels and nothing to watch' is not accurate - it should read 'all these channels and so much that no one should ever under any circumstances ever consider even for the briefest moment watching'. What have we become, and what are we doing to ourselves? Now, understand, I am not an elitist, at all . . . I love American pop culture, I have a small but treasured Silver Age comic book collection that I still delight to read, I will still watch Steve Reeves as Hercules knock the pillars out from temples to crush his enemies, and Peter Cushing's Van Helsing hunt down Dracula to end the terror of his blood cult, and while I do listen to Rossini or Beethoven from time to time the music that most deeply reaches me is Blues & Blues-based Rock, etc.
So, I love much of what an elitist might catalog as low-level pulp prepared for a juvenile mass - I am not an elitist. Neither am I a snob. I distinguish between these two designations because, while 'elitist' suggests a disdain toward the common or popular, anyone can be a snob about anything . . . often when someone is expressing their contempt for the highfalutin preferences of an educated city dweller, it is because they are snobbish about the superior qualities of their own 'simple' familiarities - they think you're a pretentious ass if you prefer pâté to Aunt Connie's meatloaf or listen to Gershwin's 'Rhapsody In Blue' instead of listening to anyone in a cowboy hat singing about kissing butterflies or America, or whatever. So, the most 'down to earth', 'everyday kind of guy' can be a snob and think all that he appreciates is just better stuff than what others appreciate.
At any rate, I am neither, I'm not an elitist nor a snob (though, I suppose "nor a snob" probably sounds a bit snooty to some). So, I'm not suggesting here that good TV can only be documentaries and Shakespeare . . . I'm fine with sitcoms, I'll watch almost anything that has some form of Capt Nemo in it, and Daffy Duck is one of my all time most favorite things - but what a chillingly disheartening commentary on who we've become as a community it is to randomly flip through the channels of contemporary American Television:
Some of it's flat-out horrifying, some is putrid, and some of it's just disappointingly puzzling. When I brought the guide up, the first thing that caught my eye was The History Channel - I love history . . . guys driving big trucks over frozen roads!? What am I missing? Is this guy the first person in history to drive a truck on a slippery road? Is he hauling the very flag that Betsy Ross hand-made? Is he going to reach such speeds so as to propel him back in time? Not only am I quite certain that I'm not watching anything that could reasonably be counted as historic, but I'm quite certain there's no reason for this to be filmed and broadcasted. If you were told "You know how some guys drive trucks to transport things, like from a manufacturer to a retailer? Well, some of these guys have to drive on some really, really icy roads - it's pretty dangerous." isn't that sufficient? Does this need to be a TV show - on The History Channel?! I mean, there's lots and lots and lots of history, like, everything that's happened before right now, is history - I swear, you could randomly generate a date, 1277, 1814, 536, whenever, and make a show far more interesting than guys driving big trucks over frozen roads.
So, I raise the remote and punch the 'up' channel button, and I instantly do not see lots of other stuff I would prefer watching. I have no clue, I would lose a million dollars if this were the question, not even to save my life could I tell you who America's top model is - so, why do I need to know who 'America's Next Top Model' is going to be? Why do I know who any models are? Again, am I missing something? Models are the girls who walk back and forth on a stage or appear in magazines wearing the latest fashions so women can see what different clothes look like on a person, right? Why does anyone need to know who these women are? I don't understand why we should have any interest in the people who designed or actually made the clothes, why on earth is there any interest in the women who wear them?! That's what you're going to do with them if you go buy them, you're going to wear them - it's no remarkable accomplishment, it's merely the reverse of walking around naked, everybody does it, everyone wears clothes nearly all the time, I'm wearing clothes right now! Who is going to be the next person who wears the most clothes more frequently than anyone else in public going to be . . ? . . a TV show!?
Then a quick flip past another puzzler - car racing. I, almost, understand an interest in how a car is designed and manufactured, the skill of a driver to cross a finish line ahead of competitors, etc . . . the actual activity of racing a car, makes sense - people watching it I don't get. I mean, something like Monte Carlo perhaps . . . twists and turns, driving on a road similar to what we drive around on only going really fast to win a race, I could watch that for a few minutes, maybe - but going around in a circle, over and over and over again, seems a ludicrous thing to sit and watch. Again, like the truck drivers on slippery roads, if you were simply told "Kenny Glenn Haggard won the big race yesterday" isn't that sufficient? Do we need to actually watch as the cars go around and around and around? Perhaps if they actually went somewhere - if the race was to leave your house, drop off some mail, pick-up milk & bread, and return a movie you rented, and get back home before Oprah's 'Master Class' starts, that might be worth watching.
Any clue what's next? Seriously, Oprah's 'Master Class'!? I had been thinking that at least one good thing was that Oprah had finally left television - c'mon, she left her show to start an all Oprah network!? And she actually, not as satire, but for real, broadcasts a show she calls 'Oprah Presents: Master Class'!? And the little descriptive blurb about the show is "we get to hear her story along with her divine lessons" . . . well, now I feel like a giant boob - I knew she not unreasonably left obscurity and became a local news and then talk show personality, that she for some inexplicable reason advanced to a national stage, and that she without grounds became the most important person on planet earth, etc - but I totally missed the bit where she rose to the station of 'divine'. I suppose if she's now the omni-Oprah superintending all creation and broadcasts a TV show called 'Master Class' I'd be a knucklehead not to tune in.
The only bright spot, and an encouragement that there is still good television being produced, is a show called "Jersey Shore". This is an odd but brilliant science fiction premise that never really explains where these sentient forms of bacteria come from, but follows their efforts as they attempt to live among the human race disguised as humans themselves. I don't know if the storyline is that their group is the precursor to some kind of prokaryotic invasion of our world or if they're just some manner of disease virus that somehow managed to escape their own microscopic world to live in ours, but the show is an masterpiece of unsettling commentary on the lowest aspects of the degeneration of our culture.
The show seems to center on the least attractive germ/human who calls herself calls 'Snoopy' (I'm supposing in reference to her behavior resembling that of a female dog) and her friends as they conduct their weird bacterial version of human life. The social criticism comes in as they so exaggeratedly portray the worst aspects of contemporary American life . . . like, the female virus/people have an interest in human hairdos but their ludicrous attempts to mimic them reveal the silliness many actual human girls will go to, the male infestation's efforts to portray themselves as macho player types are so cartoonishly adolescent that it is a genius assault on the exodus from authentic manliness in favor of juvenile egotism that actual human boys have been so commonly seduced by. A Brilliant show.
Now, I'm going to switch the input over to my DVD player and watch 'The Twilight Zone' or 'Strangers With Candy' or 'The Prisoner' or 'You Bet Your Life' with Groucho or . . .
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