The world is beamed to my front door, through it, and onto my TV, where the choice of programming grows like cancer.
By Kevin Somers
Published July 05, 2006
Television is a fascinating phenomenon.
The statistics are numbing: ninety nine percent of Canadian households have at least one. Other than sleeping, it is the most sedentary activity there is, yet the average Canadian adult, too busy to exercise, talk to their kids, or make a healthy lunch, spends 22 hours a week glued to the tube.
By the time a typical Canadian child finishes high school, he or she will have witnessed thousands and thousands and thousands of murders and acts of violence. If that isn't enough, with every tweak of technology there is a TV screen for somewhere new: cars, elevators, gas pumps, planes, watches, toilets, telephones, buses, bars, billboards, and baby buggies are tuning in or are already turned on.
It's like a narcotic; people forced to go without TV talk of depression and withdrawal. I love TV and would miss it dearly, too.
I've been ADD since before it was invented and when I watch television, I flick obsessively from one channel to the next. It drives my wife and daughters crazy, but at the flex of a thumb, I get short (occasionally long) peeks into all kinds of scenarios, lives, and places without leaving home. The world is beamed to my front door, through it, and onto my TV, where the choice of programming grows like cancer.
For a medium with such a global reach, television is a relatively new sensation. The first programs were broadcast in Britain and aired in the 1930s. TV didn't begin gaining popularity in the US until the fifties. By 1969, the galvanizing of humanity through television was well on its way, however, when millions of Americans watched Neil Armstrong beat the Russians to a walk on the moon.
The industry thrived in the subsequent decades and billions around the world were able to watch Michael Jackson as he moonwalked his way to fame then infamy on television. There have been endless improvements in TV sets: high-definition, plasma, thin-screen, wide-screen, surround-sound?, and just as many in cameras, which fit almost anywhere and record flawlessly. People everywhere are filming and broadcasting their adventures or absurdities. We certainly live in an interesting world.
I've seen men hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings. I've seen people rejoicing in the streets, as a result. I've seen Timothy McVeigh, who blew up a day care, smiling in his shackles. I've seen a plot similar to his foiled at home.
I've seen Stephen Harper, similar to George Bush, make inappropriate attempts at comedy and bravado. "I don't mind death threats, as long as they don't come from my caucus," the Prime Minister quipped to the TV cameras. I don't think local lads plotting to kill as many as possible is funny. Despite (or hence) the smugness, the TV said the PM's security has been increased, as expected.
His televised drive through L.A. was surreal, but I wasn't surprised to see OJ walk. I was shocked to see George Bush elected twice and often wonder what the world would be like if the intelligent, complicated, sensitive Al Gore were president.
Politics, its participants, and pundits mostly make me ill, so I'd rather watch sports. I like playoff season: spring is in the air and, during the first round, there is a high-intensity hockey game on TV every night, sometimes two. It's beautiful.
Marriage is a popular theme on television these days, but much of it is distressing. There are several series designed to wed neurotic, narcissistic strangers who can't understand why they're single. The programs are popular enough that the contestants appear in magazines and on other TV shows to talk about their inevitable failure to love another.
Jerry Springer has low-functioning perverts actually wed on his show and follows it up with a food fight. Jer-ree, Jer-ree, Jer-ree has sparked an industry of philandering morons anxious to confess on TV, as well.
There are commercials for a company that will arrange extramarital affairs for a fee.
Directly from "I do," cameras and cameramen lived with the dumb, beautiful, newly-wed, more recently divorced, Nick and Jessica.
Gay marriage, and its inherent controversy, regularly makes the news and talk shows. People opposed to homonuptials often argue for maintaining the "sanctity" of marriage and I wonder if they don't watch TV. Here's to any happy couple.
The sports channels cover a lot of Poker, which is odd because playing cards is just slightly less sedentary than watching TV.
There's also a lot of dodgy self-help on TV, too. I expect that watching a lot of Oprah or Dr. Phil, especially, would only make things worse for a depressed coach potato. I'll wager the dull, droning, doctor inspires more suicides than he prevents.
Each city, it seems, has its own peculiar TV fetish: Torontonians on TV fret obsessively that their city is "world class;" Fires are popular in Buffalo and TV stations chase them like a fire department; Television crews in LA follow police pursuits with similar lust and make instant celebrities of the maniacs, who wave to cameras while racing through traffic; Like the WWF, but with words and nerds, Hamilton TV is rife with staged fights.
I see a lot of celebrities on TV, but I'm not sure who many of them are or why they're famous. There is a dreadful karaoke contest that generates more interest and participation than presidential elects.
I've just seen the Dixie Chicks' video, I Ain't Ready To Make Nice, where they tell Don, Dick, Dubya, and their freaky supporters where to go. It's great.
I've enjoyed watching the Natives near Caledonia scare the swagger and smugness out of Dalton McGuinty. I've seen decreasing coverage of the war in Iraq and less of the ones in Africa. I think I know why.
Nobody ever said television was righteous, but it's not all bad. I'll always be grateful to the people behind The Simpsons, Ali G, and Family Guy for making me laugh out loud. TSN puts together a terrific highlight package every morning so I can start the day watching great athletes doing inspiring things.
The idea that so many watch so much provides plenty to mull over, too. I wonder what's on right now?