There are events in most of our lives that offer opportunities for us to change our ways. The strike by television writers affords one such opportunity.
By its very nature, television is mostly illusion. During the golden age of television (that would be the ’50s and ’60s), real audiences laughed (or didn’t laugh) at comedy shows, which were mostly live. If you weren’t funny, you didn’t get laughs. But most shows were genuinely funny and devoid of bad language. The FCC had more influence then and there were only three television networks. Today, a laugh track laughs for you, whether or not anything is funny and most “comedy” is full of sexual innuendo. On cable, there is no innuendo. The f-word is used like a bludgeon.
Female “scientists” on the crime shows display enough cleavage that if the commercial were for Victoria’s Secret, viewers wouldn’t notice the transition. Such fantasies don’t resemble any female scientist I know, nor would a professional woman dress like a hooker for the office. It’s not much better in the news division, especially on cable, where female anchors and reporters resemble Barbie doll cutouts. They mostly look alike: big hair; big lips; big … well, you get the idea. The Website Radar (www.radaronline.com) recently had a quiz that asked people to distinguish between a list of female anchors and porn stars. I scored seven out of 10 correct. That’s because I recognized the anchors, not the porn stars, though the two are increasingly difficult to tell apart.
Entertainment scripts are formulaic: plenty of murders, bad language, sex, explosions and gallons of blood and gore. Even when they’re not “re-runs,” the plots are mostly re-runs. So is the news. On broadcast TV, Bush is evil, the Iraq war is wrong, higher taxes and bigger government are good, Democrats are righteous and Republicans are sinners. On cable — depending on the channel — Republicans are good and Democrats are bad, or the reverse. Guests scream at each other and question the other’s patriotism. There are stories about missing women, murdered women, missing children, and various lowlifes who, were it not for TV, would be wallowing in deserved obscurity.
Rather than watch re-runs (new or old), now would be a good time to consider turning off the TV and returning to those thrilling days of yesteryear, before the Lone Ranger, even before TV. That’s when families scheduled dinner together and talked about the day’s events and developments in the world. Useful information was passed from adult to child and back.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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