As we look back on 2005, there will be a host of surveys and lists of "biggest news stories," "most important people," and the inevitable celebrity obituaries.
These awards and compilations serve to remind us of important events and lives. In the case of two television shows that are ending as we've known them, a year's-end retrospective can serve to symbolize a societal trend.
Consider this statement: The end of "Monday Night Football" (MNF) on ABC and Ted Koppel's presence on the same network's "Nightline" combine to represent a last chapter in the media's destruction of close-knit families, a well-informed public, and a shared sense of broad perspective about the world around us.
Sound silly? Let me state my case.
First, "Monday Night Football." After 35 years, MNF has signed off of a broadcast network for the last time. Next year it will move to ESPN, a cable TV network owned by the same company that owns ABC.
So what's the significance of the switch?
It's in the segmentation of the American public.
I can remember the first seasons of "Monday Night Football." As I grew older as a kid, I was allowed to stay up later and later to watch the broadcasting trio of play-by-play straight man Frank Gifford, the apparently intoxicated "Dandy Don" Meredith, and the self-obsessed but utterly unique Howard Cosell.
By the mid-1970s, "Monday Night Football" had become an event. It brought families and friends together. Even my mom would watch. And why not? There were only two other channels, anyway.
Besides, the telecasts became more than just a sports event. Celebrities made cameo visits in the broadcast booth. Every city's fans eagerly watched to see if the hometown team would make Howard's "halftime highlights."
I vividly recall my teen friends and I listening in disbelief as Cosell announced the murder of rock star John Lennon.
And we weren't closeted away in some special "media room." We sat in someone's "den," with parents alongside us, or close by.
"Nightline" emerged as a spin-off of the daily TV coverage of the Iranian hostage crisis in the late '70s.
Thereafter, big news events inevitably brought Ted Koppel to the airwaves. The man was stiff, yet somehow still warm.
The show both discussed news and made it. In those days, if you wanted to be informed through your television set, you had little choice but to watch Koppel.
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