Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Death of a Nation

I found myself doing something recently that I don't do much these days, watching television. There are times when I find this astonishing, since I was addicted to TV as a kid. I sat for hours in front of cartoons, episodic westerns, science fiction, and especially movies. When I wasn't parked in front of the idiot box, I was to be found with my nose crammed in a book. Hours spent with the Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, Sherlock Holmes, and later any science fiction I could get my hands on accounted for a greater part of any of the days of my youth. 

(Hey now that I think about it, do you think that this non-stop anti-social behavior may account in some part for the difficulties that I have had in personal relationships over the years? Nah ...) 

Books are still a huge part of my life, but as for TV, not so much any more. Somewhere over time, something in it has changed, has been lost, has in fact died; and it's imagination. That nation of my youth, where we had heroes and villains, good fighting evil, or at least cowboys fighting Indians has died. 

Today instead we have shows about people people who fix up houses or are supposed random strangers living in one together, people who drive trucks over ice, people who catch crabs (no silly, the kind you eat), people who tattoo other people, people who model clothes (or want to), people who sing, or dance, or simply lose weight. We even have shows about people who are stranded on and island (without Gilligan) and people who cut down trees (without playing the Monty Python lumberjack song)

These are not shows with stories based on the lives of these kinds of people, with exciting plots written with a message or a point. They are just shows about what it's like to be these people. These shows are supposed to be anything but scripted, and it shows. No point is made, no lesson is learned, no higher moral purpose is served, and no great truth is revealed; but that's not the worst of it. 

The worst is that no imagination has been shown or used in creating them. Even when it's not one of these so-called reality shows, it seems as though there is a complete lack of anything new in the world of the box. (I mean I like CSI and Law and Order as much as the next guy, but do we really need this many of them?)  

What happened? We know that there are still talented people out there because so much is being produced in the way of good books. Good stories are still being told, great plots unfolding, and unforgettable characters are created; but not anywhere near a television studio. Is it just that cable has created too many options for anyone to deal with? Has the diversity of channels diluted the pool of talent out there to the point that it has no potency? Has evil Corporate America simply set aside good story telling to maximize profits? Have we their audience simply become so docile and brain dead that we no longer care, as long as something on the boob tube (watch yourself, this is a PG blog site) or flat panel? 

The realization of this loss hit me like a childhood friend who has lapsed into a coma, slowly passing away before my eyes. There was so much promise here, so much of a future to look forward to; and now it seems that it has ended. It is terrible to watch such a death, or the death of anything in this world for that matter. Sadder still is to see one of Man's greatest abilities, the ability to imagine; and a technology of such great promise, television, coming to such an ignominious end. 

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