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» Thursday, June 13, 2002
Every so often I get a letter urging me to continue to subscribe to TV Guide again and I toss it without opening it.
I finally broke myself of the TVG habit a couple of years ago. As a kid I would have collected them. Last fall I even forgot about the Fall Preview edition that used to be the highlight of the first week of school when I was a kid. It was the only TVG my mom would allow me to keep and I’d walk over a mile to the only grocery store in town that got it on a Tuesday to buy one without having to wait until Saturday. At one time it was even fun collecting them from different parts of the country. You could see all the local programming and easily guess what the chief business and climate of each place was: midwestern states had farm reports, coastal states maritime series. Now with the advent of cable, all the programs are the same and it’s no fun any longer.
One reason for dropping the subscription was simply that a lot of the things we watch on television just aren’t listed in TVG anymore. We have an adequate program guide by pressing the satellite “guide” button, and if that’s not enough, I can look the evening’s programs up on Zap2It.com (while still mourning ClickTV.com, which was less cluttered and quicker in response). Either the channels we watch aren’t there or they just give the series title. Big deal. Why pay an ever increasing price simply to know that a certain series is on every week at nine?
The biggest reason were the articles. Once upon a time, can you believe it, articles in TVG were actually...gasp!...about television! They actually even did in-depth serious probes on various issues, besides just fluff pieces on various series and celebrities. But now...pray tell will you explain to me why movies like Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Men in Black are covered in TVG? I can see TV remakes like Charlie’s Angels and Mission: Impossible: with the opening of the movie, do a retrospective on the series. Fair enough. But Potter and Padme aren’t from television. Neither are rock bands. I suppose NASCAR and other sports things count because they are watched on TV--but TVG isn’t a sports magazine either, so it’s a bit tiresome.
For my own part, I had a third reason: reading the listings were just as bad as seeing the commercials for these programs. They all look and sound alike. A luscious young woman in skimpy clothing or in something covering but clinging appears, perhaps. Her swollen lips pucker at the screen. A young man bares his chest. Or a couple fiercely kiss. Shoulders and bodies are shown as clothing slips off. Even the WB promotions for Angel at its darkest featured the series female characters in cut-offs and tight jeans posing provocatively for the camera. And what do the TVG summaries and the broadcast promos all speak breathlessly of? “Tonight, will Felicity lose her virginity?” “Will their families find out that they slept together?” “Temptation is too strong to resist for Dawson and his girlfriend!” “Caught together--what will they say?”
Modern television has managed to do the one thing that thousands of years of whispers, illicit books, burlesque, and raunchy comics could never achieve: they’ve made sex...boring.
If you read the synopses and listen to the promos, no one ever seems to do anything but either get laid, get over being laid, or suffers the consequences of being laid. Human beings can do thousands of things--yet the characters on television seem capable of doing nothing but thinking about and having sex. Or rather should I say the writers of these characters and the producers who push the plotlines seem to have no original ideas besides a couple of people having a tumble in the hay. When they’re not doing it, they’re leering over it or mooning about it.
Even kids are no longer immune. Pre-teens on kids’ programs are even concerned about their sexuality. Girls moon over boys at ages ten and eleven. Even 8-year-olds leer at the buxom babysitter. Do we really need one more precocious kid making sexual innuendoes? Yawn. Big deal. Creativity is dead. Just slip in the prospect of “the big bang” and you don’t have to write a decent script.
This may be why I’ve retreated to e-books and old issues of St. Nicholas, preferring to read 80- and 90-year old young adult stories. Even today’s best selling books seem to be obsessed with sex. If someone’s not doing it, they’re regretting it, getting violent over it, committing suicide due to it, destroying marriages for it.
The spunky teens of 1910 and 1915 don’t worry about how good their bod looks, if their sexual organs are big enough or if certain grown-up sexual signs have shown up yet (like Judy Blume’s insufferable Margaret and her friends), if they’re going to be too late “doing it” and how they’ll do it. They swim, sail, horseback ride, hike, camp, drive, fish, hunt, have wonderful parties, dance, sing, play cards, enjoy each other’s company, have motorboat races, take part in regattas, celebrate holidays with costume balls, hold school fundraisers, put on plays, take dares, race cars, overcome obstacles, solve mysteries, participate in contests, take care of mischievous siblings, have taffy pulls, learn new skills. Instead of having sex--they actually honest-to-God have fun!
Would that television would start having fun again, too.