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TV Limbo

Once, not long ago, I was banished to TV hell. In due time I adapted. I learned to watch American Idol with much of the rest of America. I admit there was something a little thrilling about it. I thought myself a pioneer pushing out into the petit-bourgeois wilderness that is America, a faithful diarist of shallow and obscene life-as-it’s-fabricated there in the center of the culture industry. That way, when next time an academic asks, “What is this thing they call ‘network television’?” I could proudly reply with the knowing wink of experience, “It is nothing you ever want to see.”

Then a tornado decided cable television itself, even if Basic, was superfluous to modern life, and stripped our entire block of its connections to the CO/AX grid. Now we live in TV limbo, someplace between no TV and TV sans rabbit ears, where PBS struggles and the WB is grainy but watchable. We can only watch Texas Ranch House thanks to the kindness of friends with a VCR.

We can’t even watch American Idol, which is why I was surprised to discover tonight that the top three comprises Elliot, Taylor, and Katherine. To my mind there is only one possible explanation for this trio that makes sense. It’s obvious that a cadre of Ed Sullivan’s children and the thousands who can’t get tickets to see Celine in Vegas have banded with Zionists to form a voting bloc that intends to overturn all conventional measures of talent and sanity as we know them.

If that sounds absurd to you, then I’m afraid the WB doesn’t have much of anything better to offer. Smallville, which has enough bad dialogue as it is (and which reserves most of the worst lines for Chloe, poor girl), tonight posited a thesis of behavior that should make even Superman question whether the human race is worth saving. Kill the power grid, and social order will collapse—not eventually, not even within a matter of days—instantaneously. Riots will break out. Looting will occur. Molotov cocktails will be thrown. Puppies will not be scratched behind their widdle ears. Why? Because nobody can text a vote to American Idol, of course.

Color me skeptical. Society is built on interpersonal relationship and social structures that are much more engrained in our being than Smallville’s writers give credit. Yes, techne is important, and yes, its absence disrupts—I saw it with my own eyes a few weeks ago. But even then, in the midst of ruin and destruction, men didn’t begin setting fire to cars—not even the drunks swaying out onto the sidewalks to see what the tornado had done—instead, they ran in panic. Perhaps it would have been different in a bigger city. Indeed, the psychology of very large groups can be difficult to gauge, and where tensions are taut already, anything might happen. But it’s not as if there wasn’t a blackout recently on which the writers could have drawn. I’d even say techne’s absence, after it disrupts, even grows; but then it haunts, and then it fades. Smallville’s writers think too little of people. As if to prove it, they make General Zod a better human psychologist than Clark Kent, because it’s his plan to cut the grid and cause the riots, and it’s his plan that actually works. So the question, then, may be why it is that evil Kryptonians seem to understand us so well? Answer that, and maybe we can understand the rest of the Smallville world.

(Just once I’d love to see the mass of men foil an evil mastermind’s plot by acting contrary to his prediction. “Men will riot in the streets!,” he cackles, but when he pushes the button, they form committees, raise funds to pay for reconstruction, and ultimately draw closer together as a society for having overcome hardship. “Damn my psychology,” the mastermind would shriek at his minions at the same time as he would instruct his former colleagues to submit for no-bid contracts for the reconstruction.)

Anyway, I doubt there’s any really good answer to the question. This after all is a show that decided the only way it could make Lex Luthor evil was to turn him into Zod. It can’t even let the man go bad on his own. Smallville thinks too little of Luthor, too.

And this, my friends, is life in the place that TV forgot.



Speaking of really dystopic views of society, check out the rants against tech industry unions going on at Slashdot. I’ve only read the top level comments, but they pull from far and wide to say they basically mistrust everyone but themselves.

try veronica mars. i love that crap.

it’s inspector gadget (sans dog and gadgets), meets the gilmore girls (sans wealth and family conflict…and it’s a dad and not a mom), meets twin peaks, meets falcon crest, meets high school.

what he said.

Sounds redeeming. When’s it on?

WB what else bozo?

No wonder your student’s papers are such a drag on your tenure. I asked when, not what—bozo. :)

tuesdays sometime late 9ish or 10ish, sometime after T’s gone to bed.

it’s my fault for checking this while getting ready for guests.

Tuesdays? We don’t have anything we watch on Tuesdays…

Which, reading over, I realize was a totally illegal thing to say. What I meant was….

Darn! Tuesday night’s philosophy night, in which we read Aristotle, Heidegger, and Popper to each other, giggling at the funny parts and discussing late into the night the ontological implications of what we have learned. I can’t sacrifice that.

you can sacrifice the thereness and the thatness of those exchanges?

To the contrary, I cannot, although Da Sein maybe.

(I know, I know. Da Sein is all screwed up.)

So, too, I’m remembering now, is my use of techne screwed up. I promise I’m not anti-dictionary—just lazy sometimes.