Why bother? (To watch TV)


Man, popular wisdom has it that ya mellow with age.  So I guess I must be getting younger because it sure seems as if I get pricklier with each passing day.  Surely the world can’t be that much more irritating than in years past, so it’s gotta be me.

There was a time when I kind of enjoyed watching TV, although I didn’t even hook up the cable that came with my place for years.  But when I finally mastered the mechanics of screwing the cable into the TV, for awhile it was kind of interesting, at least on occasion.  Then the rule about no advertising for prescription drugs was done away with and everything changed.  Jeez, now it seems as if the American viewing audience must be limited to the lame the halt and the hypochondriacal.

Surely there can’t be that many normal people who are obsessed with their own excrement, but if you watch TV it’d be easy to get the impression that the most pressing social issue of our time is how often and how well one completes a bowel movement.  It’s revolting.  For heaven’s sake who likes to think about excrement?   But there are seemingly droves of people on TV screaming about the quality of their feces ad infinitum.  TMI, folks, TMI!  Talk about limited horizons!  Has our national focus really narrowed to such unseemly lows?   Has it really come to this?

Of course, it’s not only the “I’m dissatisfied with my bathroom experience” demographic that’s driving me away from TV.  There are the puerile faux news channels that never seem to actually get around to imparting any meaningful information to consider as well.  Their perky bimbos can chat amiably about the pros and cons of the University of Maryland’s new football helmets, or what–or who–the fashinistas are bitching about now, but toss a substantive issue their way and see what happens.  Deer in the headlights time.  As a dedicated fact junkie it’s hard to maintain any intellectual equilibrium in the face of the assault on intelligence that is the TV news media.

And it sure seems as though whomever is producing this drivel doesn’t get it that people watch TV for reasons other than to view commercials.  Just flip on the TV at any hour, day or night, and chances are there’ll be a commercial on.  This morning, at 5:30 I watched for about 10 minutes during which one chatty guy talked for maybe a minute about sports.  The rest of the time it was all commercials.  And that was during the news segment.  Did I miss something, or was there a fact of some import buried in all the variations of the TV marketers’ mantra; “buy, buy, buy”.  Facts?

Who said anything about facts or information?  Get with the program.  Buy something.  It doesn’t matter what, just buy it.  How else can you make your friends and neighbors jealous and envious?  Isn’t that the whole point?  Forget about facts, just buy.  Something.  Anything.

It’s true, ya can’t beat TV commercials for soul deadening, but I’d kind of like to let mine die a natural death, not be sucked into the black hole of mindlessness that is TV marketing.  That said, at the moment Yahoo ‘s trending topics show Medicare fraud a distant number 5 on the list while the riveting lives of Miley Cyrus and Kate Gosselin top the chart at 1 and 2 respectively–not much of an improvement over TV’s annoying repetitions.  Medicare fraud, which is a matter of real importance, is trailing Chik-Fil-A.   Fetch me some digitalis, that heart-stopping line-up is too exciting to contemplate!  Whew, I need to rest a moment, calm down a bit after seeing that paean to banality.

But surely there is information out there in TV land somewhere.  Perhaps the History Channel–they do documentaries, right?  There’s gotta be a fact or two to be gleaned there.  Just the other day I learned from that source that alien invaders invented almost all our cool stuff.  I didn’t catch the bibliography for the information but, hey, it’s the History Channel.  They wouldn’t take liberties with the truth, would they?   According to that same source, different documentary, water appeared on earth billions of years ago and then oxygen showed up a couple billion years later.
Ummm, isn’t water made up of hydrogen and oxygen?  You know, H2O?  You’d think that might have occurred to at least one editor or fact checker before the program was broadcast.  Nope.   Water, billions of years ago, oxygen a couple billion years later.  Don’t argue, it’s a documentary!  Gotta be true.

How about sports?  Yeah, those are good.  I love sports.  So how come the prospect of a bunch of savagely overpaid jocks doing their thing has lost its luster?  Dunno, but somehow the thrill of vicarious living has just paled over the years.  Living’s something I kinda like to do for myself.  So it’s not a lot of fun just sitting on the sidelines, or the couch, watching other people live, however interesting their behavior may be.  I’m busy living–far less spectacularly, but still…  Sports are fun to play, and occasionally to watch but, for the most part, when they reach the fever pitch of
overdrive hype, interest just seems to wane.  Couldn’t tell you who won the Superbowl last year, or the World Series, or even the Kentucky Derby, and I’ve been horse crazy since small.

So let’s go back to the commercials.  How come everyone’s yelling in them?  Are commercial models hard of hearing, or do commercial producers assume that anyone too feeble to click to another channel when their product is being pitched is probably hard of hearing too?  Frankly, I don’t care for being yelled at, so almost all commercials annoy me.

Well maybe politics.  That’s interesting, no?  No.  It was interesting in 2008 because America was fascinated at the prospect that we might actually elect a black president.  There was a tense, horse race quality about that electoral contest.  But, as usual, the TV networks overdid it after that.   Mis-took that episodic interest for intense interest in politics generally.  Normal people don’t obsess about races until election day is near, and then only if the stakes are really high.  The day to day doings of our putative leaders are hardly the stuff of which dreams are made.  As far as I can tell, the mediocrity Senator Roman Hruska once so famously pined for is way beyond the grasp of most, if not all, of our what-passes-for-leaders.

Just to check, I stopped what I was doing here and flicked on the GOP debate.  Yep, mediocrity would be a huge leap for those folks, and there’s no reason to think the democrats are any better.   We’re just being spared a deluge of unwanted psuedo-factoids about them because they’re not overtly crazy enough for this particular political season.  They’re just as venal, greedy and stupid, no doubt, but not rabid-bat crazy like the GOP candidates.

Clearly a lobotomy is in order if I want to continue to watch TV.  Forget the digitalis, bring me the icepick.  This time I’m really gonna do it.  Just stick that baby into the ol’ frontal lobes and stir, then all this angst will drift away with the severed neural connections and everything will be fine, just fine.

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