I will confess to you that I am a TV junkie. And when I say, “junkie”, I mean that in every sense of the word. The stuff on TV is, in fact, junk.

I grew up on TV. Stop me if I’ve told this one before – I mean I cut my teeth on “I Love Lucy”, “Jack Benny”, “George Burns and Gracie Allen”, “Sergeant Bilco”, “The Life of Riley”, “The Honeymooners”, “I Married Joan”, “September Bride”, “Your Show of Shows”. Later on there were the likes of “The Danny Thomas Show”, “That Girl”, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, “M.A.S.H.”, “Bob Newhart”, “All In The Family”, and “Bill Cosby”. Do you get a pattern here? My favorite shows were always comedy. Situation comedy, mostly, but always – comedy. I loved to laugh. Doesn’t everyone?

Well, apparently not. At least, not anymore.

I don’t know what has happened to TV. Somewhere between my thirties and my fifties, either we, as a nation, lost our sense of humor, or the best joke writers died off, or someone changed the rules of comedy on me, or – I just don’t know. Frankly, I’m stumped.

Of course, all of this did not happen overnight. Up until (was it last year?) we had “Frasier” and “Friends”. Admittedly, both of those had gotten a little bit tired by the end of their run, but both of them had at least a few years of being truly witty, fun to watch, and even touching. But it seems to me that there was a cut-off point in 2000. The change seems to parallel the change in Washington. In the ‘90s we had Bill Clinton – liberal, it’s true, but also casual in his manner, brilliant in his speech, human, perhaps all-too-human in his foibles, a combination of the “down-home” Arkansas country boy and the Rhodes scholar. Bill Clinton could laugh at himself, and we could laugh with him. Then we had George Bush. A conservative, it’s true, but also rigid in manner, fumbling in speech, and seemingly unwilling or unable to be comfortable with his own human foibles, a combination of the “good ol’ boy” from Texas and the effete privileged-class mediocre Yalie. He’s just not funny. (I’m sorry – Is my political slip showing? I try to be “fair and balanced”, but I know I utterly fail).

Well, it seems to me that the political change in climate has produced a change in the entertainment climate. In the last few nights we’ve been flipping the channels, desperately seeking some form of amusement that at least would not annoy us. What have we found? Endless news analysis of the battle in Fallujah. Reruns of “Fresh Prince of Bel-air”. People pricing their antiques. Morbidly obese men and women trying to lose weight. Graphic shots of throat surgery – this is served up as light fare. Murders. Cops. More murders. More cops. Scantily clad women singing badly. Hollywood gossip. And a surprising frequency of appearances by Osama Bin Laden, of all people. (Why do we keep giving this man press?!)

What this country needs is a good, healthy, belly laugh. As a matter of fact, we need lots of them to make up for the laughs we haven’t been getting in the past four years. And I don’t mean the kind of laughs that can only be had at someone else’s expense (the kind that are created by shows about “Bloopers” and video clips of people getting kicked in the butt). I mean the kind of laughs that remind us all how truly human we are. The kind of laughs that remind us that, to paraphrase Rick in Casablanca, the troubles of a few hundred million little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this world.

If the current crop of TV shows is “reality”, then give me delusional fantasy any day. Better yet, give me a good book. The trouble is – I’m a TV junkie, so I’ll probably keep watching and hoping that one day it will be the “good old days” again.

Does anyone know if there is a 12-step group for TV addicts out there anywhere?

© 2004, Robin Munson

 Category: Robin's Nest

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