Kill Your Television
Text (c) RayzRealm, February 2004
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Television; also known as TV, the boob tube, the glass teat, idiot box, cyclops, and a few other choice words. A long time ago, in TV's monochrome past, the director of the FCC proclaimed that television was a vast waste land. We've traveled a long way since then. TV offers a vast festering cesspool (hundreds of channels worth) of mostly junk food for the mind and soul.
Television has provided some good entertainment and thought provoking programs over the years, but as time goes by, these are getting harder to come by. PBS probably supplies some of the best programming on television, when they're not fishing around in the viewer's pockets for money or brow beating every Joe and Jane six pack who has tuned in, into feeling guilty for copping a peek at their quality programs without making a contribution.
My infancy coincided with television's, shortly after World War II. My parents had one of the first sets on the block, a 12" Dumont in a big mahogany box that sat in one corner of the living room. Boston basically had 2 or 3 stations then, there wasn't even PBS and no cable. There wasn't a huge variety or shows to chose from, war and Western movies, I Love Lucy, Red Skelton, The Honeymooners, Liberace, Ed Sullivan, some science and industry programs, news reels, Ernie Kovacs (one of my childhood favorites, Andy's Gang, Buck Rogers, Tom Corbett Space Cadet, The Lone Ranger, Boston Blackie, I led Three Lives, The Little Rascals, Three Stooges, I Remember Mama, Amos'n'Andy, Lights Out, news and commentary, cartoons and some local programming, that's what I mostly remember my family watching.
The technology at the time was not very reliable. I remember seeing the TV repairman much more often than our family doctor or dentist. Like doctors, TV repair men made house visits. There were times when my parents didn't have the money to get the set fixed, so it sat quietly in the corner, sometimes for weeks. Back then it was no big deal, we listened to the radio, played cards and board games, visited and were visited by neighbors and relatives, indulge in hobbies.TV stations were just as prone to program outages due to "technical difficulties" and could last from minutes to hours, "please stand by"
I took a very early interest in electronics, getting my ham radio license and learning to fix TV's and radios by the time I was 12.I was in demand by relatives and neighbors alike, making a few bucks here and there. I won't say much more about my Mister Wizard antics now, as I have written about it in more detail on the journals page under the geek section. From childhood through my 30's I ate and slept audio and video technology. High points during my childhood were visiting a real radio station and channel 4, one of Boston's first TV stations; weird kid huh!
My parents bought our first color TV when I was in high school. Programming had expanded quite a bit; we now had channels 2,4,5,7,9,11 plus a couple of fuzzy out of focus UHF stations. As I look back, the family spent less and less time talking, and more time passively sitting in front of the box.
I also noticed that TV advertisements were taking up a bigger segment of air time than they did during the 50's. When I was a kid, a 1/2 hour program had one commercial break with maybe 2 or 3 short ads, Speedy Alka Seltzer, See the USA in your Chevrolet, Lucky Strike means fine tobacco.
Fast forward to cable, the year was 1981.....
I first had cable when I shared an apartment with my Friend Warren. New Hampshire does not have the best reception using rabbit ears or a roof antenna, unless you enjoy watching a screen filled with snow and other electronic noise; cable is almost a necessity. I bought my first VCR and a 19" Sony Trinitron shortly after moving in with Warren.When MTV first aired I could watch it hour after hour, 10-15 music videos in a row with hardly any advertising. The only other program material was rock music documentaries and band interviews. The super stations were also quite watchable, with next to no advertising. As the years danced by, MTV (in my opinion) sunk to playing a few videos in between ads, and other cheap starchy swill material. The super stations as well as Discovery, Leaning and History channels have as much (if not more) annoying ad breaks than their Big 3 network cousins.
During the 70's and 80's our UHF stations were still independents that carried some interesting and entertaining alternative programs to the networks. One used to show uncut movies with only 2 or 3 short commercial breaks during the entire movie.
Fast forward to current.....
Sigh, now Boston's independents, Channels 25, 38 and 58 are now Faux, UPN and The WB. The only programs I've watched or watch on Faux are the Simpsons, X-Files, King of the Hill, Futurama, Malcolm in the Middle. The rest of Faux, UPN and the WB are total throw aways in my opinion, and the major 3 fare almost as bad.
Another trend I've noticed since the 90's is the amount of advertising that all of the networks fill the air with. A 1/2 hour show will have 2-3 commercial breaks, an hour show 5-6 and forget about watching a feature film "edited for TV". I've counted off the individual ads per segment, which can range from 8 to 15, which boils down to a 1/2 hour show actually running about 10-22 minutes and an hour long show averaging about 45-50 at best.
I won't say much about reality TV, except there's very little real about it. One of the first shows that loosely fits the genre was and is "Candid Camera". I always liked Candid Camera and still do, it's pretty innocent and shines a light on the gullibility of the masses in situations such as the unsuspecting customer who's buying a new car being asked to pay with pennies. Faux TV's Cops has probably been one of the longest running reality series where we follow the average police officer as he deals with zoned out drunks, junkies and trailer trash. My prayers do out to the cops who put up with this crap daily.
It's all gone downhill, with Faux leading the pack, who wants to marry a...., when ..... attack, who wants to be a....., plus all the other network electromagnetic pollution like Fear Factor, Survivor, Battle Dome, Big Brother, The Mole, that Donald Trump suck up game, parents, meet my slutty whore fiancee, etc, etc, yadda, yadda. I find very little entertaining or informative about watching a bunch of hissy narcissistic 20 and 30's something's dissing each other as they see who can eat the most bull testicles, then swim the furthest through a raw filled sewer for a cash prize.
I take back part of what I said, these shows are slightly informative and tell me, if these are as popular as the ratings and water cooler chat at work seem to make them, then American society has long since passed it's zenith. We're fast heading for where Rome was when the "Circus Maximus" and "Christians vs Lions" games were popular.
Why do "they" hate us?.....
Since the world has become one big happy dysfunctional family due to high speed travel and satellite communications, we've become a big exporter of "American reality dreams." Do people ever stop and think that maybe, just maybe there are a lot of societies who don't appreciate the stuff we're throwing at them over the ether, to say noting of the global branding and bill boarding of every village and town around the globe. Maybe, just maybe a lot of people feel smothered by the materialistic and amoral propaganda that we export.
I came to the conclusion a long time ago that TV's main reason for existance is not to entertain and educate, but as a means for companies to hawk their wares to a captive audience. The programs are nothing more than cheap filler between the main message, "eat me, drink me, buy me, you're less than nothing unless you use my product." TV has become for many unsuspecting viewers, a tool of mind control. I could go about this for another 100 pages, perhaps later.
This concludes our broadcast, have a good night and a pleasant tomorrow, and don't forget to patronize our sponsors who make this show possible.