gettin’ old, watchin’ the tube

One thing I love about having survived half a century is that I’ve become comfortable with guilty pleasures. So comfortable that I just think of them now  as…pleasures.

Which brings me to television. First of all, now that the Supreme Court has decided corporations are really people, I should treat corporations as I would treat people, and if they want me to watch something, wouldn’t not watching be…rude? You’re not gonna hear me say “I don’t even own a TV” or “I only watch PBS.” Nope. Made peace with the idiot box. I.Love.TV.

Don’t get me wrong. You look through my library, you’ll see plenty of deep and substantial things. Hell, I was a cybernetics major at a top-tier university, and I can debate arcane philosophical points with the best of ’em. I’ve even occasionally been known to wear a beret, so obviously I’ve got some intellectual credibility. But life’s all about balance, and for that balance, I’m more than happy to suckle at the anesthetizing teat of television.

Or as I call it, my friend. TV is great, because when I want other humans in my apartment (but don’t want the hassle of actually interacting), I push a button and there they are. When I don’t want to be bothered by the tiny people in the box, I can make them go away. And unlike actual people, I can make them shut up and they don’t get all passive aggressive. It’s not like after turning the TV off, the next time I want to watch the TV throws me attitude like “Oh you didn’t want to watch me an hour ago—maybe I won’t turn on now.

See, the wisdom of my advanced years has taught me that, despite what Newton Minow famously claimed in 1963, the medium is not a ‘vast wasteland’. True, there’s a lot of garbage. But that’s why God made the remote and the TVGuide (or whatever the kids use to find out what’s on).

Now for entirely non-philosophical reasons, I haven’t had a TV for a few years. When I decided to get one, I had a classic ‘old man’ moment. I’m in a Best Buy, and the only TVs I see are flat-panel. So I ask the twenty-something clerk, “Do you have any TVs that look like…TVs? You, know, kinda like a… box with a cord?” And he says, “Yeah, I think we used to sell those a while ago…”

Initially I didn’t want cable–figured I’d just watch the ‘broadcast’ channels, with an antenna. But the antenna only allowed me to pick up the Spanish-language Home Shopping Club and the Evangelical Word Network, so I dove in, and now, with a TV and cable, I feel like I’ve been whooshed into another dimension like in an episode of Doctor Who. Which I can also watch now.

Random Observations About The TV Thing

Be careful if you’re flipping between two shows. And you’re stoned. Once, a couple years ago, I was going back and forth between the Golden Globes and the premiere episode of 24, and at one point I was worried that Jack Bauer was about to shoot Sandra Bullock.

I think the best solution to NBC’s late-night problem would have been to make Leno a regular on Law and Order—he stays on the network, Conan keeps The Tonight Show, and the 10pm slot is filled with cop shows again, like God intended.

I like Sarah McLachlan. I like animals. I DON’T like Sarah Mclachlan’s music as background for public service announcements about abused animals. Now I can’t listen to the song ‘Angel’ without thinking of sad, hurt puppies.

The Game Show Network is a weird concept, because they show reruns of game shows. Harder to get excited for someone who won $1,500 in 1978. That money’s probably gone now.

Niche channels like the History Channel maybe shouldn’t try to fill an entire day, because they seem to be running out of material. Hard to believe, with all of…history to work with, but there was an episode of Modern Marvels that was about COLD CUTS! Yeah, turkey bologna is truly a wonder of modern technology.

I love that my TV is high-definition, because with the wider screen resolution, now if I watch Fox News I get two extra inches of stupid.

Finally, a few thoughts about PBS. If you’re the type who ‘only watches PBS,’ that must be because your life is made richer by the deep, insightful analysis you get from the Legends of Doo-Wop, because I swear on the grave of Philo Farnsworth that is only show they play during pledge drives! I’m sure you think you’re playing to your demographic, but most of the members of the groups themselves are dead by now! Concert footage of seventy-year-old guys singing “Teenager In Love” to an audience of other seventy-year-olds doesn’t make me want to subscribe, it just reminds me that I’m old!

Oh, and not all British sitcoms are funny. Some them are simply crap with an accent. Frankly, I think most Americans watch BBC shows out primarily out of guilt for beating the British in the Revolutionary War.

Last night on PBS, there was a special featuring violinist Joshua Bell. Talented, and as close to a rock star as classical music gets. But he did something very disturbing. He performed a  ‘duet’ with dead pianist and composer Sergei Rachmaninoff. A recording of Rachmaninoff was played through a computer, which was connected to an actual piano, and somehow the piano looked like it was being ‘played’ without anyone sitting at the piano. I thought I was watching sorcery. And in that moment, I realized that when technology frightens you more than it impresses you, you’re getting old.

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