“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”--Groucho Marx
There are those overly educated elitists much more knowledgeable than I in the studying of the unwashed masses that claim television defines the culture. They likewise tell us that those who control the media control the, uh…lack of culture. I am not capable of such utter brilliance on most days, ‘cause I got ‘portant stuff to do like cursing at Jeff Gordon while we goes round and round for three hours, beatin’ the tar out of the puppy and trying to walk that delicate tightrope that is getting a good buzz on in a society that has become a litigious orgy of sorts. I’m still trying to figure out how to get that dab of cotton out of the top of the aspirin bottle without gettin’ pissed off. I ain’t learned enough to handle much more than that on even the bestest of days, but I’m content in all of my neatly displayed peasantry.
A couple days ago some of those wallowing away in the blogosphere got to doing another one of those nifty surveys for all of us to enjoy in which they had to list their top 4 favorite television shows of all time. Needless to say, wifey and I did a bit of contemplation and then shared our lists with each other. Here’s my top 4:
1. Star Trek
2. All in the Family
3. Battlestar Gallactica
I’m not sure what some pricey witch doctor--some shrink--might make of all of that, but there it is. When I’m not doing the escapism thing, I’m glued to a slice of middle America wrapped in social commentary. Come to think of it, I was but a sprat of , say, 12 or 13 when I first started watching Archie Bunker, so maybe that’d go a long way towards explaining why I’m such a half-literate still-budding grownup to this very day.
Once I graduated from the Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family and Lost in Space, the advent of cable television exposed me and my common kinfolk to movies and shows that were for lack of a better word--titillating. Consider Archie Bunker. We were initially drawn to Archie because he seemed to be busting on colored folks. After further review, it became obvious that he was the one being busted on. The Odd Couple comes to mind. The kids in art class said this was some scandalous new show about two men living together. Homos? On TV? Get out. It was nothing of the sort, but having grown well past Marcia Brady’s training bra days, we needed more. We needed scatological hilarity and brief glimpses of full-blown mammalian protuberances in various stages of undress.
Enter Home Box Office.
Now, living on two welfare checks a month in a low income housing project didn’t exactly provide a struggling dork such as myself with all of the perks and amenities that those rich folk might come to expect and take for granted, but somehow my Mom went and got herself this newfangled contraption called HBO. Sitting there punching those 13 buttons at night seemed at first to be other-worldly. Gone was Uncle Ted’s Ghoul School. Gone was Oscar and Felix. Gone was whatever lame programming it was that seemed so darn special back in those days. Now we had Al Pacino and his delightful rapid-fire F-bomb assaults on our giggling gaggle of junior high school rejects. Now we had Tuesday Weld’s naked butt beautifully displayed for the lot of us to admire and hope to one day grope in person. Buster & Billie? Oh my goodness! Full!…frontal!…nudity! This is great!!! Pubic hairs rule, man!!!
About two years previous to my mom’s having curiously decided to suddenly lower her typically high standards, she had beaten me about the head and face for spinning a J. Geil’s Band LP. ‘Member this one? You’ve got to give it to me. How filthy. This was the same lady who just about ejected my cuzzin from a third story window ‘cause he and I had the audacity to spin Country Joe’s “Fish Cheer” real loud like. What if the neighbors had heard it? Gimme an F!!! How shocking. This was the same single mom who freaked the funk out after my Uncle John figured my bedroom seemed like a good place to smoke some of his imported Columbian smoke. Kids today. The still-fledgling Green Party was born in my bedroom. Go figure.
She had another one of her deranged parental episodes when she happened upon me watching a David Bowie concert on ABC’s “In Concert” show at 1 in the morning, or somewhere thereabouts. Bowie? I had barely even noticed that he was prancing around the stage in what could only be called effeminate-looking clothing with Mick Ronson working his pearl-lined Les Paul nearby much like some legendary painter might work his brush. What, mom? Watching queer folk? What? No, no, mom. No. Okay, I’ll frickin’ go to bed. Don’t shoot me, I only wanna be like the guitar player. Jeez.
I dunno. Maybe poverty and being all alone with her equally frustrated brood had beaten her down to the point where she just didn’t care anymore. One week, Alice Cooper was banned from my turntable. The next week I was being threatened with being thrashed within an inch of my worthless life by Uncle Bud if I ever dared listen to “Fairies wear boots” again. Yet another week, pictures of scantily-clad rock ‘n’ roll groupies on the cover of Circus Magazine made her go totally ballistic.
One week she was a Mother Theresa wannabe and the very next she upped and called Service Electric and ordered the Home T&A Network. One week pre-pubescent concave girls covered from head-to-toe were to die for on television and the very next television became the precursor to Girls Gone Wild. Had one of her oft-lose screws come lose again? Did a brain stem wire get crossed somehow? Or was the reinvention of television merely redesigning the culture? Got me. All I know is, within what seemed like the blink of an eye I went from admiring Marsha Brady’s ponytails to hankering for an up-close inspection of Tuesday Weld’s perfectly sculpted behind. I dunno. It just seemed like a much better place to visit than any of those exotic locales National Geographic had to offer.
Fast-forward to 2006.
These days, at least for me, surfing the television channels has become a voyage fraught with an unending parade of human debris. Fact is, I don’t do much surfing anymore. I got no need to see tattooed women reach the apex of their existence by scoring some Jerry Springer beads. I ain’t gooder’n nobody, but watching idiots lay out their idiocy on Judge Judy is, for me, too painful to watch. I can’t bare to watch the common folk being hoodwinked into worshipping anyone along the lines of Oprah Winfrey. Reality TV has got about as much to do with reality as Ted Kennedy does, unless you consider that he’ll say and do anything for a hefty donation. He’d eat a handful of German Cockroaches for the purposes of filling his reelection war chest. Any politico would probably do likewise, so I’ll cut him a break in those respects. Dr. Phil is the biggest blowhard ever to get rich off of other folk’s dysfunctions since the televangelists figured out how to abscond with other folk’s money so as to ensure them that Heaven awaits them. Ch-ching.
I can’t watch the NBA anymore. Where’s Rodney Dangerfield when I need him? Hey, I went to a basketball game the other night and a mugging free-for-all broke out. I can’t listen to the Sportscenter interviews with “superstar” athletes that never progressed much past Cat in the Hat 101 at Basketball University. I ask for the big NFL showdown and I get sideline reporters turning ever so slightly for the camera so as to show off their new-and-improved silicone implants. And if that’s not completely lame enough, they have to go and make things even worse by speaking: “Coach. How do plan on beating the Patriots today?” Um, I dunno. We’ll outscore them? DUH! FOX Sports went and hired some sports babe who blocked out the Sun when she turned sideways and Howie Long dropped his head to the desk and tried to hide the fact that he couldn’t bare to look in the direction of the blue screen that further exaggerated her new-and-improved profile. It’s not so much that you need a television face anymore as it is you are required to have a television rack on ya.
It gets worse.
About two weeks ago wifey shouted out to me to put HBO channel #7,007 on and take a look at some such sexual tomfoolery. So I did. And what did my bugged-out eyes behold? A Japanese girl spitting semen into a condom and then giggling up a storm after she made her deposit. I sh*t you not. Turns out, there’s a show on Japanese television where the male contestants need to ejaculate the most semen during a 24-hour period to win the whole shebang and make off with the prizes. Sadly enough, there’s obviously no shortage of very young girls willing to get nekkid on television and use whatever means possible to faster facilitate the desired ejaculations.
Within three short decades we’ve gone from Marsha Brady’s ponytails, to Tuesday Weld’s bare behind to Wheel of Semen. Is that a good thing? Is the dog wagging the tail, or is the dog being wagged by the tail? Is the television actually defining our rapidly devolving culture, or have we become so low-brow, so utterly repugnant, that it sometimes offends the sensibilities of the retired porn stars? Did the terrorists manage to poison the gene pool while we were becoming so completely smitten with smut, filth and idiocy--the new-age evolving pop culture? We need a 103” plasma television to watch supposedly well-educated folks behave like the trailer park trash they hold in complete contempt? Call me a prude, but something seems to have gone seriously awry on that meandering road to all-encompassing enlightenment.
Incremental changes have a way of becoming the ‘norm with the passage of time, but I find it hard to believe that my mom could have ended up desensitized enough to ever snuggle up on the coach with her favorite pillow to take in the season opener of Wheel of Semen. Who knows. If she hadn’t introduced me to the Home T&A Network, I probably wouldn’t know Tuesday Weld from Gary Coleman. But she did bring T&A into our government-subsidized living room. And an immediate byproduct of such a curious move was that Marcia Brady and all of her innocent charms were relegated to television’s rear-view mirror.
And they say watching the descendants of moonshine runners--southern good ole’ boys--making left-hand turns for three hours is stupid, or somehow beneath their dignity, or their well-documented level of educational prowess???
If watching Wheel of Semen is proof of an advanced intelligence in a richly enlightened world, I’ll stick with my low-IQ NASCAR racing and revel in my abject peasantry.
Oprah? Ain’t got no need for no Oprah in these parts. Got no need for no for big city girlies doin’ unspeakable things to other big city girlies. No need for no pansy-assed boys stickin’ their Jones’ into anything that ain’t been stuck yet. We like our girlies all wholesome-lookin’ and suchlike in these here parts. Gimme some Kevin Harvick and some Daisy Duke and keep on stirrin’ that home brew ‘til I tells ya to stop.
Sez me, fellers. Lonesome Cowboy Mark.
Get me a goll-danged beer and meet me ‘hind Uncle Jiggy’s tool shed! And shake that funkin’ thang, will ya?
I may be vile and pernicious
But you can't look away
I make you think I'm delicious
With the stuff that I say
I am the best you can get
Have you guessed me yet?
I am the slime oozin' out
From your TV set
You will obey me while I lead you
And eat the garbage that I feed you
Until the day that we don't need you
Don't got for help...no one will heed you
Your mind is totally controlled
It has been stuffed into my mold
And you will do as you are told
Until the rights to you are sold
That's right, folks..
Don't touch that dial
Well, I am the slime from your video
Oozin' along on your livin'room floor
I am the slime from your video
Can't stop the slime, people, lookit me go
(I am the slime.--Francis Vincent Zappa)