Sunday, June 27, 2004

Surfing Into the Great Unknown

It’s no secret by now that I am obsessed with the television...but then again, arn't we all? Maybe it’s the warm comfortable glow from the Idiot Box late at night, or maybe it’s a weird fascination with feminine hygiene commercials. I mean, anything that makes remote mention of mysterious ‘wings’, or has ‘four-wall protection’ is bound to get my attention. Never mind the philosophical conundrum of the ’Thin Maxi’ alone (what the Hell DOES that mean anyways?!) Quite possibly, it’s the odd chance that I have actually unconsciously absorbed and stored this plethora of useless information, and my brain has swelled to the size of a ripe honeydew melon.

Yes, you could say I have recently developed a rare strong emotional bond with my sweet ‘Tele-Tubie’. Lately it teaches, it preaches, it takes me away to sandy beaches. I can watch teams of middle-aged men in colored jumpsuits build B-52’s out of a bathtub, coat hangers and spit, on The Learning Channel. I can watch little kids and their fathers maneuver killer robots like ‘Killertron’, ‘Spikeasaurus’ and ‘Kronic the Wedgehog’ in a fierce mechanical Kumite battle to the finish inside an arena hazarded with explosives, circular saws, pick-axes, and other larger killer robots, on the Discovery channel. Or, I can watch grown men in sparkly tights and roller-skates, as the ‘Bay City Bombers’ take on the ‘L.A.T-Birds’ in an ‘Alligator Death Match’ as part of ‘Roller Jam’ on the Nashville Network. Once you take away those evil ‘Infomercials’, you’re not left with much educational or entertaining material with which to plan your evenings viewing pleasures, are you? I’d just as rather turn off the T.V. and surf for vintage ‘Norwegian Penguin Porn’ on the web instead.

The trends of popular television culture are constantly and forever changing, but they have always managed to maintain a certain familiarity with its viewing audience. In this way, television can be used to accurately gauge and depict the average interests and intelligence levels of the ordinary tuned in couch potato, like myself ~ ‘Cheetos Slobicus Maximus’. I have seen the future indeed, and it is not bright and you can leave your sunglasses at home. In fact, you can pluck out your eyes now, learn to read brail, and save yourself the whole miserable experience altogether. I used to know what Willis was "talkin’ bout", but now I can barely figure out why people love Raymond when he’s obviously such a doofus? It's true, not EVERYBODY loves Raymond. In fact, 'Terry HATES Raymond' would be a much more suited sitcom.

It’s a completely new generation of lowbrow masochistic viewers out there, and I for one, haven’t got a freakin’ clue anymore. No longer will the mere mention of teenage masturbation on the previous evening’s episode of ‘Married With Children’ be the focus of many fervent discussions around the vending machine at lunch break in school. And who can forget the many pleasurable evenings spent indoors getting pissed playing drinking games to ‘The Cosby Show’ (one shot for every time ‘ol Bill moans, groans, goo-goo ga-ga’s, or makes any other undistinguishable utterances, and a double every time he goes all bug-eyed and says: “WHAT?!” ).

Then came University, and the regular magical tripping of the light fandango into the early morning hours in front of such classic reruns as ‘Hammy Hamster’, ‘Baywatch’, and ‘Speed Racer’. Real think-tanks of popular culture to be sure! And of course, who can forget the shockingly perverse addiction America experienced with Jerry Springer and his loyal legions of loonies, wack-jobs, and fat lesbian midget hookers...and those were just the audience members! They were the ‘Wonder Years’ indeed!

It is my theory, that recent events in our past have changed the viewing attitudes and interests of today’s ordinary television viewer. Post September 11th viewing audiences seem more inclined to tune in only to merely veg out mindlessly and stare complacently at the ‘Boob-Tube’. Where once the mighty television was used to expand minds and provide quality and educational programming for the viewing masses, it is now used to lure oneself into a hypnotic state of comatose to escape from the drudgery in our own lives ~ most recently, by turning our attentions to the drudgery of other peoples lives. How else can you explain the unpredictable twist in programming trends towards “Reality-style” television and away from the successful mainstream family orientated formula? Not that being turned loose on a desert island paradise with a dozen single bikini-clad beauties, and an open license to boink, bop, jump, hump, and rut freely with anything that walks, crawls, or skinny-dips, like a three-peckered billy goat at the State Fair isn’t interesting, but what does it have to offer intellectually?

Is it possible that the general viewing audiences have become tired of the continuous fire and brimstone apocalyptic landscapes that have become all too regular on today’s mainstream television broadcasts? I know I personally, would rather play naked Marco Polo with Michael Jackson and Bubbles then be subjected to another ‘War on Terrorism’ campaign ad. Even if you tried to limit your television experience to the educational channels, they too are now more geared towards existing in this new untamed environment. ‘Secrets of Forensic Sciences’, ‘On the Trail of Nuclear Meltdown’, and ‘Inside Jenna ~ A Day In the Life of a Teen Porn Queen’ do little to comfort me to the fact that it’s a Brave New World, and that the entire human race, as well as the Nielson ratings, are poised ready at the nozzle end of a huge shit-sucking vacuum, ready to swan dive in with all guns a blazin’ and a mighty “Carpe-Fuckin’-Diem!” At least on computer message-boards, the whole diplomacy of ‘good vs. evil’ is eventually reduced to whoever can “jam the phattest”.

I am constantly amazed with the current trend of educational reality television like 'Orange County Choppers' which documents the designing and constructing of customized motorcycles in a family garage. Now, I don't know an exhaust pipe from my asshole, but somehow watching a team of specialized grease-monkeys work over an engine sparks that dominant male gene inside me that needs to be nurtured beyond the regular impulses to scratch my scrotum with a salad fork, belch out the alphabet and air guitar to Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway to Heaven'...windmilling so viciously that the cat goes into hiding. I feel like a testicular giant! I wouldn't get this same dose of male machismo had I been watching an educational broadcast of ordinary low-skilled schlups working in a Hostess bakery making Twinkies or Ding-Dong's, would I? We NEED this particular kind of broadcast programming so that we can live vicariously through other more noble and rewarding professions other than the ones that we are normally slaving at.

What has our society evolved into when we have to watch television programs about people doing completely different jobs in order to achieve the same work satisfaction that we are currently lacking at our own places of employ? But this kind of broadcast irony has become commonplace in today's society. We watch the 'Iron Chef' whip up 'Pigs Testicles au Gratin' in lieu of the prepared Kraft Macaroni and weiners we have made for dinner each night for the past month. We watch dating games with midgets on 'The Littlest Bachelor' to compensate for the fact that we can't find ourselves a date on most Friday nights and stay home instead to wack off to porno. We watch gay men giving complete personal style makeovers to make up for the fact that we haven't changed out of the same pair of skidmarked boxers we've been wearing for the past two weeks and currently have a leaning tower of Pisa worth of dirty dishes in the sink. We watch home renovation programs to counter the fact that we live in squalor in an old cardboard refridgerator down at the railyard. We watch gardening programs to validate the hydroponic marijuana plantation we have growing in our closets since University. We watch personal fitness and exorcize programs while we make ourselves crapulent and allow our bodies to go all 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape?' It's cultural mayhem!

Luckily, with this developing trend in television broadcasting realism we will never have to actually own up to being a valuable functioning responsible member of our communities. We can just continue to live vicariously through our television sets like hothouse flowers on a window sill never having to actually interact directly with our surrounding environment.

Perhaps, today’s popular television is reflecting this lost faith in broadcasting excellence. You have to wonder about the state of the universe when the only alternative on T.V. to the Closing Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics is the ‘Gutton Bowl: The World’s Greatest Eating Championship’. I am embarrassed to admit that I was not only lured into, but was sickly enthralled with this grotesque spectacle. NEVER should a mentally and emotionally stable person EVER be subjected to watching teams of grossly overweight slobs sweat and slurp their way through bowls of mayonnaise and plates of pickled quail eggs! Not only was I shocked and appalled, I was perversely mesmerized...kinda like staring at Richard Speck’s man-breasts! I sat there on the edge of my seat as they dumped shit loads of the mystery consumable in front of the porky participants from the ceiling of the arena, for no other purpose other than to show their obvious disrespect for the waste of good ‘ol wholesome cholesterol. But there I sat ~ entranced.

So maybe I’m not a good example. But, if this is TRUELY the case and we as an artistic and cultural society have in fact regressed back to this form of Neanderthal entertainment, why stop here? Shit, let’s go all out! I suggest that in retaliation to the recent immergence of the numerous televised award ceremonies like the ‘Trumpet Awards’, the ‘Spirit Awards’, and the ‘FOX Teen Choice Awards’, lets have a broadcast that exemplifies this world of realism that we have embraced. Let’s host the ‘Ivory Awards’ to honor the outstanding personalities in the successful white elitist communities worldwide (which could be held at the beautiful Sun City Resort in south Africa), or the ‘Hook Awards’ for the often forgotten disabled but deadly members of Hollywood (which could be hosted by Edward Scissorhands).

Let’s create even more worthless viewing for even greater reaches of our society by airing the ‘Bed Pan Lawn Bowling Championships’ on the ‘Seniors Life’ Channel, cock fighting on the SPIC Channel, vintage 70’s porno on the WOP channel, and 24 Hour ‘Musical Marathons’ on the HOMO Network.

Of course, there is always the train of thought that suggests that it is not necessary to subscribe to these television formulas for lifestyle at all. That one only merely needs to condition oneself to actually turn off the television and to tune into the world around them instead to live a better and richer life. This not only will this teach you to rely on your instincts and trust in your intuitions and intelligence, but better serve to culture yourself through the absorbing of unbiased and enlightened literature and by developing a healthy
interest in the arts. This is all well and good, but what am I supposed to do about my Pamela Anderson fetish in the meantime? It’s not like she’s gonna leap off the set of ‘Baywatch’ and travel from the T.V. realm to bring those sweet bikini-clad cans to me, now is she? No, I DON’T think so.


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