Speaking of Jay Leno... (were we?)
--- @ JTS [tm] T------ linkta an Open Salon article by Scott Christian, who wrote blah blah blah and...
"I haven’t actually watched his show and refuse to do so..."
This was buried in a parenthetical aside in the second paragraph; this should have been his lead. You have to admire a critic who comes right out and boldly states he hasn't actually seen whatever it is he's allegedly reviewing, who frankly brags that he has no idea what he's talking about. Wait, admire isn't the right word for it. What's that term I'm looking for... ostracize, condemn, vilify, mock, pity, scorn, urinate upon...
Frankly, it's enough to almost make me regret all those things I used to say about American Idol, a show I still have never seen more than a few minutes of at a time (and then only because the producers lack the intellect to actually time the 60 minute program to fit into it's own time slot.)
Speaking of lack of intelligence, the premise of Scott Christian's thesis seems to be that America's lower classes depend on free broadcast television to stay connected to the national consciousness and a great divide in quality between broadcast and cable/pay/DVD TV will "dumb down" the masses and divide the culture, thus justifying his alarmist "Jay Leno could ruin America" type headline.
Now this is an interesting point - essentially the same one I was making five and a half years ago in discussing the wave of FCC-fearing self-censorship following the 2004 Justin Timberlake Super Bowl "indecency" incident - his infamous wardrobe misgrabment and simulated sexual assault on an older, female minority pop music icon.
However, his three paragraphs in defense of the "economically depressed" poor who can't afford cable and concern over intellectual atrophication following "low grade programming" replacing such intellectual 10:00 PM NBC fare as Journeyman, Er and Law & Order: Sex Crime Patrol has to be viewed in light of his, only half a page earlier, hailing carpeted malls and Foot Locker as pinnacles of classiness and describing the economically depressed poor who shop at 99-cent stores as "dregs".
He does make an interesting observation about M*A*S*H having greater cultural impact than the Reagan presidency. Uh-yup, I remember when the Ayatollah held American's hostage in Iran and refused to release them until M*A*S*H was canceled. Oh thank God for Hawkeye Pierce for standing up to Gorbachev and telling him "Tear down that wall!"
He totally proves his point, though, about how Seinfeld's catch phrases contributed more to the American pop lexicon than anything from modern literature, when he misquotes "Master of your domain" as "king of the castle". Yeah, he sure knows his stuff: what is this guy, some kinda chowder fascist? Smiley face emoticon.
Scott Christian says "And for those who say it’s just TV, I say, look around, look at the last 50 years of our history. We are TV."
Well, to some extent, it's true, as a people we are the sum of our collective awareness of pop culture. Which lends to both the shared gene pool and to subtle differences. We are TV, yes, and film, music, literature, comic books, popular catch phrases, political and advertising slogans - a vast pool of shared ideas and concept. Some of us, I suppose, are a little more comic books or sci-fi or anime geek or pornhound than others. I suppose if someone never did anything but watch TV then, yes, I guess Scott Christian IS Tv.
For the sake of selling a few paragraphs, he pretends to be concerned that the qualitative difference between broadcast and cable TV will create a cultural rift in out society. Look around - culture is split by dozens if not hundreds of such rifts along economic, social, racial, sexual, political and ideological lines. By the time the mainstream familiarizes itself with the newest slang, the terms are two seasons out of date. By the time the latest outer coast fringe trends, fads, fashions and drugs have filtered their way into middle America, the coasts have moved on to the next big thing. By the time the fashion and advertising industries have decided which new trends can be commercially exploited and marketed to the American mainstream, which ever fads they're chosen are a year too late to be considered cutting edge. 24 hour news and the internets can speed up that process, but they can't change it.
I will not pretend to speak on behalf of Christians, but my paternal ancestors were Scots, so this is one dreg of humanity who thinks that Scott Christian brings shame to both of his names.
= Napoleon Park =
Proud spokesman of dregs everywhere.
Also droogs, druggies and the occasional drag queen.
But, But, But... What If I Don't Like The Jay Leno Show?
"The More Things Change, The More Different They Get."
"The Golden Age was whenever you were thirteen"
According to Bauhaus, Bela Legosi's Dead. According to The Moody Blues, Timothy Leary's Dead - but of course they were ahead of their time. That's not Chris Farley in that commercial, just his filmed image.
Even people who are still alive get old: Bill Shatner didn't play Captain Kirk in the last Star Trek movie and Julie Newmar is a lot less likely to play The Catwoman in the next Batman flick than what's her name, that girl the boys all like... I'll think of it, give me a minute, I'll come back to it.
You know, the Fox who played Megantron in that Transformers movie. Anyway...
It's not coming back. Whatever was better then than it is now. It's not coming back.
The Dumont Network isn't coming back. The days of black and white pictures, monophonic sound, lo-def and pre-digital analog broadcast signals: not coming back.
"Oh help me Flash Gordon, Savior of the Universe, help me Superman - the Jay Leno Show is going to cause the collapse of western civilization as we know it." The feces of a male cattle. Not global warming, not unprovoked wars, not more virulent strains of flu virus, not economic collapse or far fringe politics on both wings of the bird. Leno. F***ing Jay Leno is going to destroy the world.
Because why? He's not funny, he's not hip? Oh boo-flipping-hoo mister I'm so entitled that the whole world and all 600 TV channels have to cater to exactly my tastes and my demographic at all times. Ain't gonna happen. A fantasy world in which your mind-power evolves to the point where whatever affronts your dignity by not pleasing you can be dismissed with a thought? Not gonna happen this year. Or ever.
Okay, I get it, Leno is bad because...
He took up time on NBC's schedule. So? The only 10:00 PM NBC show I was watching was Medium and it's on CBS, Friday nights at 9:00 now - problem solved. Leno didn't get Trial By Jury canceled. Leno didn't cause Hill Street Blues to end.
Because he's old? Groovy, son. Let's all join hands in a prayer circle and invoke the gospel of St. Pete Townsend: "I hope YOU die before you get old."
Because his show is cheaper to make than a standard hour long scripted drama or multi million dollar special effects extravaganza? Screw that economic elitist nonsense, Craig Ferguson's show comes in on probably a tenth of Leno's budget and it's regularly the funniest thing on TV.
Because it's hurting NBC economically. Well, so? Unless your family's entire lfe savings are locked into long term investments with NBC, why should you care?
Oh right, Jay Leno is bad because there's five less hours of shows on the major network prime time schedules.
Let me just stop laughing. Wait, not done. Hold on, just a bit more... ha... okay, done.
There are more books in the Library of Congress than it would be possible to read in ten lifetimes. Heck, there are probably more Star Trek novels or Harlequin Romances in print than any sane person would read in one lifetime. You'd think all the good ideas for novels have been used by now, or that someone would edit all the cook books or all the self help books together, edit out the redundancies, and create a definitive text. But there's an entire industry built around cranking out and selling new books.
We've been hearing about the imminent collapse of the recording industry for the last twenty years or so... and yet, somehow, both established artists and newcomers seem to keep releasing new songs and videos and greatest hits collections and what doesn't sell gets blogged or put on My Space pages. There's way more music coming out all the time than anyone can keep up with.
No one gets to have all the toys.
But we need Leno's five hours of TV time? Really?
At what point in the past before things were changed did you think were so perfect that that's the way you want everything to stay?
Because I know you don't want to go back to the time when there were three broadcast TV networks - A, N and C - that went off the air between 1:00 and 2:00 AM and stayed dark until the morning farm report. Three hours of prime time a night, seven days a week - yes, there used to be TV on Saturdays - that's 21 hours, times three networks. Sixty-three hours of prime time TV per week. I'm sure that way way before most of your times, but think about it. You'd freak out.
Let's say you just have a TV, a junior g-man secret digital decoder box and a really nice coat hanger and you just get broadcast stations. You have NBC, CBS and ABC plus PBS and, in many areas, Fox and The CW. The latter two only provide two hours of entertainment per evening, and I don't think CW is on seven days a week any more. Let's see, 3 x 6 = 18 x 3 = 54. 2x7=14, 2x5=10. Less say that whatever PBS is doing is entertainment, that's 21. We're talking prime time period - the time between 8:00 and 11:00 PM. 54+14+10+21=99. Almost but not quite a hundred hours of prime time broadcast television per week. Oh, I forgot, let's deduct that five hours Leno is wasting: 94.
So there used to be 63 hours of TV (in the early '60s, when everyone knows everything was better), now there's 94. How is that less?
24x7=168. There are 168 hours in a week. If you made watching TV your full time avocation and watched the 94 hours of prime time entertainment the networks offer - which does not include whatever crap they slap on on Saturdays, and does not include the fact that these days several or the major networks are actually broadcasting 24 hours a day - That would leave you 74 hours a week to eat, sleep and clean yourself. Including cooking and travel time.
Ah, but I hear you cry, you don't want to Dance With Top Idols, you don't want to watch Forensic Law: New Jersey or 20 different shows about New York cops, you don't want inane sit-coms to tell you when a jokes is meant to be funny by cranking up a laugh track. You want choice.
Oh man, come on out of the cave, Binky, have I got good news for you.
There's this thing called cable TV. Don't take my word for it, trust Bruce Springsteen; he wrote a song about it. "57 Channels and There's Nothing On" Except that since he wrote that song... well let's say its a lot closer to several hundred channels. Heading towards a thousand.
Oh, and have you heard? Thanx to this thing called DVD you can buy complete sets of entire runs of old TV shows - somewhere between 10% and half of all TV shows ever made. Really. You can buy them, own them, put them on a shelf, play them any time you want to.
Remember that "pay TV" thing they used to talk about in the '50s? They worked out the details; you don't have to pump quarters into your TV like a vending machine after all. You can get HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Starz, Encore, Spice - full length theatrical films with no commercial interruptions (except for an annoying voice-over during the closing credits) and original programming. Uncensored.
Psst - they have the internets now. Digital streaming radio and video content - original material, old TV shows, music videos. Hulu, Fancast, Funny Or Die, TV network web sites, YouTube, several dozen pornography sites that also have the word Tube in the name. Ultimate Surrender nude lesbian wrestling.
And did you know that they still publish comic books, graphic novels and magazines?
The exact volume of entertainment options someone with a middle class income has available to them is incalculable. Trying to absorb it all would make your head explode. There is no scientific basis for that last statement.
With all that out there, there are still dozens of TV critics wringing their hands over the fact that five hours a week of Jay Leno is going to change everything and bring progress to a standstill and lead to the collapse of the entertainment industry. That's it? Wash off the mime makeup, sell the unicycle, give up juggling and shoot the donkey because Leno sucks? Seriously?
Impending Bill Murray "Meatballs" quote warning.
There is no reason that the fact that NBC has chosen to dedicate five hours of their prime time schedule to a program that does not suit everyone's taste should be worth all this uproar and furor. Hey Seuss Marimba, there really might be something else on, or something else you could be doing worth your hour.
Unless you are locked in an isolated cabin with no books or computer and a television with no off switch that only gets one network, there is no reason to be so freaking upset over the Jay freaking Leno show.
IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER.
One more time. NBC did not give Leno five hours of network time because they thought he'd revolutionize or revive the prime time comedy-variety show. They did it because they were locked into a contract that promised Conan the Tonight show. If they reneged Conan could have gone to ABC or Fox and started a new 11:35 talk show the way Letterman did with CBS. And if they dropped Leno he could have done the same. They didn't want that to happen, so they prevented it. The Jay Leno show is a lot cheaper to make than five hours of scripted drama, especially in a time slot that hadn't produced any major hits for the network since the early years of the very long running ER. And it is assumed that Leno may attract more viewers during the months when the other major networks 10:00 PM prime time shows are into reruns - though that's probably an overly optimistic assumption.
NBC is not on the verge of bankruptcy. And no matter how many TV critics cry and hold their breath until they turn blue, NBC is not going to cancel Leno unless virtually all of their affiliate stations drop the show and air syndicated content or local news at 10:00.
But the important thing to remember is, if you really can't stand the Jay Leno how. it just doesn't matter. You have to watch it anyway, it's the law. The Making Crybaby Assholes Watch Shows They Hate Act of 2009. You Have To watch Leno - if you don't, they'll come to your house and mess you up bad. Real bad.
So watch it. Punk.