The Obsolete Man and His Television

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Metamodern Culture. Obsolete Man. Rod Serling's Timeless Message.

“Any state, any entity, any ideology that fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of Man – that state is obsolete.” – Rod Serling

By EJ Wickes

Some mind expanding and obsolete dialogue from the past. By the eighties they managed to distort time and space with the sit-com. Filled more half hours with mediocrity than ever before. I never knew there were so many half hours in prime time. The networks were reducing everyone’s lives to a laugh–tracks, 28 minutes at a time. Either that or the world’s worst sci-fi shows. Science fiction on TV in the 80’s was enough to warp any sci-fi aficionado.

Thank God for the Battlestar Galactica remake. Every once in a while they do something right and that was one show that really needed redemption. The reason sci-fi was so good in the sixties and seventies was not because of the special effects, it was the writing; the story. The cerebral journey, and for a kid, that’s where all the action is.

TV scenarios are becoming more obsolete. So we expand the formula by showing the worst society has to offer on reality TV and more unimaginative fiction. You can only repeat the same obsolete narrative so many times. Through a multitude of characters that the audience can relate to; transfer to, the Soap Matrix is born. Daytime television was fashioned for women. Sports for men. The daytime drama; the soap opera. I know. My sister and a girlfriend who both would record Days of Our Lives religiously each and every day. Admittedly, every day when I came home from work, the Pavlovian Effect would kick in.

My first exposure to John de Lancie; you may remember him as “Q” from Star Trek Next Generation, was in Days of Our Lives. Yes, he was the “Salem Strangler” in Days of Our Lives and the VCR was God. It’s amazing how TV programming can affect a relationship. That’s a whole topic in itself for exploration.

Television programming has gotten intellectually softer and more obsolete. It’s padded with prime time shows that get so “real” they become a placebo for life that we identify with, rather than face the true consequences of what these shows represent. People spend more time and emotional energy on West Wing or House of Cards than they ever spend participating in, or challenging real-life politics. Think about that.

Beverly Hills 90210, Funny, that’s one numerical sequence I’m sure we all remember. They’ve been getting lots of mileage and off-shoots from that formula: “Twilight: Vampire 90210, Werewolf 90210, on so forth.

You walk into a bar and what do you see on TV? Sports. A doctor’s office: soaps or some empty morning show with star-struck idiots standing outside in the cold waiting for the host to give them the time of day. “Monty! Monty! Monty!” reinvents itself into “Joker! Joker! JOKER!” Game shows, diversions with pretty models and gifts. There was a time when the major networks ran many more movies; The Early Show in the afternoon, Tuesday Night Movie of the Week as obsolete examples. Not the View, not Opera and sure as hell not Jerry Springer. Cable made the big three networks even worse.

I prefer the shows where you actually hate the bad guys rather than identify with or fetishize them. Why would I watch The Sopranos? I escaped that lifestyle. My biological mother was murdered by creeps like that. Why would I glorify any of those characters or feel sorry for any one of them? I’d rather watch them get their fuckin’ heads blown off on the news. Now that’s real world satisfaction. And late night talk shows. Talk about tripe. If they’re talking about anything consequential, then it’s experienced vicariously through others. Others who ought to be having their own conversations about the same topic.

Add social media into the mix and a whole new set of conditions apply. Acute narcissism and diversion on a global scale. You can’t be in a real life setting anymore without at least one person constantly finger-fucking their phone. Resistance is futile. Humans are communal and can get sucked into announcing their feelings, hopes and dreams, (just like I’m doing right now), every fifteen minutes. It’s group therapy for the masses. It’s the only time some people can express their own truths; sadly behind a barrier that blocks out all the physical and expressive nuances we’ve come to fear with personal engagement.

Those of us who were born in the fifties might be the first generation ever to have televisions in our homes from cradle to grave. We were quite possibly the first “control” group. There was a time when television provided fair and balanced editorials and public service announcements and reminded us of who we really were; imperfect but unique; when public broadcasting was still “public”. Today those have become obsolete. There’s none of that. No “watch out for the other guy”, no Native Americans rowing their canoes through rivers of garbage, no anti- war commercials, none of that; not anymore. All obsolete.

Instead of romance, adventure and other stimulants to the imagination, now we have reality TV shows about the worst of New Jersey and Beverly Hill house wives. Like really, who cares? And don’t forget “Adventures in Storage Units” and “Guys Guttin’ Turtles”. Personally, I prefer to live my own life vicariously through Family Guy and the Simpsons. See you on the flip-side.

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