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*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.



"Oh, we don’t watch television in our house."

Smack that person with a Sony Grand WEGA.

This is one of most stupid and usually ill-reasoned things I hear come out of otherwise intelligent people's mouths.

“It’s just so full of mindless tripe, sex and violence." Yes. It is. Name me a medium that isn't. For every tome with a National Book Award seal on the cover, there’s a hundred bodice-rippers with thirty-seven different euphemisms for the penis per chapter. For every scholarly book by the likes of David McCullough or Shelby Foote, there’s a cash-in hackjob on Michael Jackson, Robert Blake, O.J. Simpson or whoever the sensationalist news story of the month might be. Just look at the New York Times Bestseller List. Not all of those books are exactly aspiring to high art.

You can read Jonathan Lethem or you can read Danielle Steele. You can listen to Bach or to Backstreet. You can read the Times or the Post. You can subscribe to Atlantic Monthly or to Swank. You can watch Cops or The Wire. It’s all a choice.

This tells me that the TV affects the Mediumists so that they must not have the capability to pass up The Simple Life. They would rather see a girl famous for being a rich slut when they could be watching a show with the wittiest dialogue this side of Dorothy Parker, Gilmore Girls. If given the choice between the amazing writing of Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing in which the dialogue is not unlike music, the ideas are challenging and the characters are fully realized, and the pretty, vapid denizens of the Big Brother house, they fear they'll go for the latter. Because The Job co-existed in the same medium as Baby Bob, they can't risk that they might turn on the wrong channel...and like it.

The biggest complaint I get from these Mediumist bastards is that the quality television gets cancelled and the idiot-box stuff continues on. Never mind that The West Wing is now in its seventh year, that Homicide ran for seven years, Gilmore Girls is in its sixth, and if you’re into sappy family oriented stuff, Seventh Heaven has run for ten years. I won’t even get into the edifying nature of entire channels like The History Channel, The Discovery Channel and PBfuckingS.).

Okay, so the quality stuff gets cancelled. Sure. The list is long. Sports Night, Boomtown, Firefly, Arrested Development, even eventually Homicide all were a little too good to last. Anything that’s particularly challenging in any way seems to have a strike against it going in, thus the craptacular reality shows and juvenille sitcoms thrive. Could it be because the people who should be watching these quality programs are too busy eschewing television all together. The Mediumists have created their own problem. What if everyone who thinks there isn't enough quality fiction out there just quit buying books altogether? I imagine there'd be even less of it.

I’ve also noted that they have no compunctions about dropping ten bucks per to go see two hours of entertainment that has generally been hacked apart and rewritten to satisfy studio notes that tend to belie a lack of audience understanding more than anything. The writing on television tends to be superior in many ways. There isn’t time to second guess the audience as much and there’s isn't as much concern with non-story considerations like how long people will stay in their seat and how many showings can be crammed into a day. A TV show is bound to treat it’s audience a little more intelligently that a movie that values effects and stunts over plot.

Look at TV another way. From Rod Serling, Gene Roddenberry, and Stephen J. Cannell in the past to the likes of Tom Fontana, Joss Whedon, Aaron Sorkin, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Ron Moore, Shawn Ryan, Denis Leary, and Rob Thomas today television has given us our modern Shakespeares. Before you think I might be overstating it or something, consider it this way. Who did Willy write for? Unwashed, uneducated groundlings who packed the dirt floor of the Globe for a few hours of escapist entertainment. Billy-boy was a TV writer. Now his works are crammed down the throat of every school kid despite the fact that the English language bears little resemblance to the form it took in the days when William had to make up words to get his point across (or to hit a rhyme). Will kids in a hundred years be studying scripts from The Twilight Zone? I think they should be now.

So next time somebody looks down their nose at you for watching television with its sex and violence, beat their ass like Buffy...and then do unto them as was done to Aceveda. And do it with a copy of The Da Vinci Code.

Then there's comic books...(sigh)
©2024 Michael Patrick Sullivan
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