“My living room didn’t deserve this. So I did what was right.”
Growing up, the buzz and multiple personality disorder that was television never scarred me for years to come. The Saturday morning cartoons were one of the reasons I woke up every time at 9:00 AM (the others were Frosted Cheerios and my PlayStation 2). Other than childhood memories and times of wonderful expense, all that soon dissipated. It hadn’t been the TV’s fault, not necessarily or even in the beginning, but rather the sudden flush of shows, both in number and content. How I’ve managed to hate programs, one after the next, became an arduous trudge to the living room. To this day, it’s incredible to see so many channels, most of which go unsubscribed to. I wish it was a simpler time.
TVs had exactly three broadcasts, four if you were lucky, before the introduction of Cable Television. Even with cable, that came out to a possibility of thirteen channels in the 1960s. I don’t know about your viewing needs, but suffice it to say I’m content with three channels if not breaking double-digits. Plus, those broadcasts (ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS) mattered extensively more so than they do now. Since it was the dawn of sci-fi technology, it makes sense that these programs would be influential from its first runs onward. The issue, for me at least, nowadays these news carriers are sprinkled in with needless entertainment and melodramatic fixes. Viewerships are either easily amused, highly critical, or have the commonwealth of each attribute. Intelligence has a lot to say about what we decide to watch, but keep in mind people might know what their experiencing and missing or they might not. I rest on the county line.
By no means is this pandemic, but it could be. It’s a subject we inherently talk about but never give notice to enough or conscientiously. My mother and sister willing watch, while I willing type about, Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Why anyone feels invested and committed to the lives of others who don’t look better off is beyond me. That’s it though. Unlike myself, viewers like my mother and sister are inclined to relate to these reality shows because of one aspect and one aspect alone: drama. Somewhere in their lives they’ve either seen, heard, or had their share of drama. To what extent is not of importance. Any situation that calls upon a real-time dramatization is enough to find solace. Alfred Hitchcock is turning in his grave, I swear it’s true! Voyeurism has been ruined by reality television. No more fly on the wall, it’s up front and personal like we want it and boy are we getting it.
“A TV show about watching people watching TV shows straight from your TV. Inception is real…”
A sadistic truth in entertainment is this; as far as TV and movies go, they’re just entertainment. Reality TV, as much as it doesn’t deserve its own grey area, doesn’t come remotely close. As soon as you place a camera in the room, you’re acting. Let’s face it, reality as we know it isn’t entertaining unless you make it such. So what does reality TV do? They create situations for us couch potatoes to enjoy at our leisure, in our reality that seems less boring because of the vicarious amusement we get from someone else’s drama! And what have I to say about relationships? They must have been alive and well until “the fight” came along, and who’s to say they aren’t healthy and progressive long after the recordings stopped. Just another way to keep its viewers happy, mindless, and tasteless. Reality isn’t a show, but it certainly is a satire.
My honest concern is with the current and new, incoming generations that won’t sedate themselves from the tube. They have to suffer the onslaught of below mediocre cartoons and sitcoms that irregularly air and the worst part is, they don’t know their suffrage. It hurts me more than it hurts them! All is not lost however, as long as TCM and TV Land are still around. Really though, there are so many better written, fun-loving shows in decades passed that still stand the test of time. Looking back to science fiction, Star Trek and The Twilight Zone, among many others, are obvious choices that make you think and feel. Batman‘s high-octane heroics gave the campy, clad Caped Crusader his crime-fighting core (and alliteration!) The Office‘s outlandish hi-jinxes in the workplace make “make-believe” a real thing and a fun thing. Criminal Minds puts its viewers in the mindset of its police operatives and its suspects, creating a more than engrossing psychological and physiological world. So many shows that exude nothing short of a movie, that do it right in a matter of a half-hour or less.
“Here’s a cartoon with class.”
Now for the real harbingers of deficiency. Local news, mass media, and commercial content are either reports of alleged, one-sided, or, sometimes, borrowed perspectives from other news ventures, and I can’t say the same for the subjected teleprompter readers from behind the desk. Sometimes it’s downright gossip and uninformed opinions, sometimes it’s evidence that’s only semi-justified. All this causes unnecessary speculation and strife and to be frank, you’ll be the better person for not indulging in it. Advertising either makes sense or it doesn’t. GEICO’s slogan is, “15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance.” Plain and simple; choosing GEICO means getting car insurance in no time at all. However, upon further review, the content of the commercial has nothing to do with the company or its slogan. They go further to make a commercial within a commercial, making light of the slogan in which person’s respond to it with, “Everybody knows that.” Finally, they understand our blight!
There’s a fine line between good and bad television and opinions as well as that fine line will vary. Not all reality television and regular television are the death of sensation, some of it helps you realize, “Oh, I shouldn’t waste my time with this anymore” and, “Surely there’s something better on?” Then there are those wholesome family shows, animated, live action, or live, that have genuine themes and substance. After surfing a plethora of channels, viewers could end up catching the waves or being lost at sea. Limiting your choices to the good programs is always ideal, but it’s also good to know what to avoid. Be willing and open, but not to the point of acceptance. Ray Bradbury puts television into great perspective in his interview, featured in the 50th Anniversary Edition of his novel, *Fahrenheit 451. I’ll leave you with its snippet of volition and vitality:
A Conversation with Ray Bradbury:
DR: There seems to have been a decline in standards of journalistic objectivity, to put it mildly.
RB: It’s not just substance; it’s style. The whole problem of TV and movies today is summed up for me by the film Moulin Rouge. It came out a few years ago and won a lot of awards. It has 4,560 half-second clips in it. The camera never stops and holds still. So it clicks off your thinking; you can’t think when you have things bombarding you like that. The average TV commercial of sixty seconds has one hundred and twenty half-second clips in it, or one-third of a second. We bombard people with sensation. That substitutes for thinking.
(From Fahrenheit 451 The 50th Anniversary Edition, page 184)
*I’d also like to call attention to a scene in Fahrenheit 451, where Guy Montag is on the run and a local news helicopter follows and records his every move. The television broadcast of it all wasn’t mind-numbing enough until the reporter conducts its viewers into catching the running man in the act by opening their doors and windows, lying in wait of his appearance.