It had become a pretty terse debate. The panel had been arguing the merits of media culture, and given the background of the panelists, no point of agreement was ever likely. This particular panel show thrived on argument, and lack of results. Everybody could argue about anything forever, and simply refuse to agree, getting a lot of online support. It was a very popular show, broadcast with a live audience.
“Men don’t read,” said Jim, with his carefully embalmed
hairstyle and structurally reinforced smile hiding the years of alcohol. His
fans laughed.This was where Jim was in his element, short "we think this"-based sentences.
“Nor do cockroaches,” said Jack, a professional writer, getting a return laugh from his fans. The only reason Jack was on the panel was because he loathed Jim, and everything resembling him.
“I mean, it’s not part of modern culture,” said Jim, quickly, with a slight feeling of unease that he hadn’t understood the reply, or the laugh. In media, you learn things like that.
“What modern culture? The one where you all stand around saying “Yo!” for a few decades, or the one where you turn into a spreadsheet and say you’re a businessman?” asked Jack, now interested that Jim was actually following up on a previous sentence, instead of going into dissemble/digress mode as usual.
“I think guys should read,” said Tiffany, the youngest panel member, who had a fan base of guys and was despised by every feminist on the planet. “It’s…… empowering,” she added, pleased that she’d said her big word for the evening and got it over with.
The panel host, Bill Koo, decided that since Jim wasn’t likely to understand Jack’s question within the next week, that some damage control was required. Jim was the mainstay of the “youth audience credibility” factor, and even from this very undemanding position, he was at risk of looking slow or stupid if he didn’t speak soon.
“OK, audience….. Should guys read?”
The camera did its usual crowd pleaser of roaming around the studio on the big screen. Bill clicked when it came to one of the producer’s friends. The producer’s friend beamed, the secret signal to Bill. The producer beamed, the go-ahead. Life was good, thought the producer.
“No,” said the producer’s friend.
There was a sudden total silence. The silence lingered. Even Jim looked uncomfortable, for the first time his mother, watching at home, could remember.
Life was flashing before the producer’s eyes. Nobody knew what to say.
Bill Koo was thinking of what he’d say about quitting, when the show finished. He’d had two years of Jim, which was more than the money was worth.
But the silence remained. The producer’s friend was standing, and had forgotten how to sit down.
Tiffany smiled when the camera, in desperation, panned to her.
“Well, it is empowering,” said Tiffany. She’d just discovered that the camera stayed on her longer when she said more, and was thinking of learning more big words.
“Hey, yo, my man, tell us some more!” said Jim, then wished he’d never said a word in his life.
The camera made a mistake. It panned back to the producer’s friend.
The producer’s friend’s mouth was hanging open and his eyes were staring. It was like a close up from a horror movie.
Jack, who’d thoroughly enjoyed this interlude, sneered, “You’re a great role model, Jim.” Jim eventually worked out what this insult meant, a couple of decades later, when he was delivering pizzas.
The producer burst into tears and ran away out into the back alley. The audience silently trooped out, except the producer’s friend, who remained standing and speechless. The guys managing the Exit doors didn’t think it was a great idea to try and stop the audience leaving.
The paramedics arrived, and the producer’s friend was upended and put on a gurney. He was in shock, but would be OK, they said.
The show was cancelled. Bill Koo went to another network. Jim was reincarnated as a game show panelist until his contract ran out. Jack went on the lecture circuit. Tiffany wound up hosting educational programs.
Which leads to the question- Is modern media banal enough? Off camera, it has no choice but to be banal, given the IQs of those involved. On screen, however, there’s always the risk that something interesting might happen. Something should be done about that, so media is safe to watch.