I don’t watch a lot of TV. And, I make it a point NEVER to watch the talking windbags on either Fox or MSNBC (more on this later on). Other than this self-imposed mandate, I’m indifferent relative to general TV programming.
So, don’t interpret this as a social commentary on the pros and cons of TV programming quality. Watch it or don’t watch it as you see fit. Some of the programming is good; some of it isn’t, though.
It only takes an occasional trip through the channel selector to realize how unimaginative and vacuous some of the programming has become. And, for the record, I don’t blame network programming for ANY of it. They’re only giving viewers what the ratings say they (viewers) want to watch.
I have a retired, college-educated neighbor (MIT graduate with an MS in Biology, no less) that uses a TiVo to make sure that she does not miss ANY episodes of Maury Povich, Jon and Kate, The Bachelor, and her professed intellectual guiding light, Glenn Beck.
My earlier claim of not making a social commentary notwithstanding, I’d like to comment on something that happened to me about a month or so ago involving a cable channel called Comedy Central.
It was late, close to 11 PM, and I was racing through the TV remote—I had no idea that we have access to THAT many channels, by the way. Suddenly, like a deer paralyzed by high beams, I found myself staring directly into the headlights of a celebrity roast.
So, having been an avid fan of the Dean Martin Roasts of decades past, like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle, I simply couldn’t move. BIG mistake! And, oh, how things have changed.
Even though many people think profanity and vulgarity are the same things, they’re NOT. The former consists of blasphemous or obscene language; swear words sometimes with irreligious or irreverent behavior.
The latter is a lack of sophistication or good taste; unrefined; making explicit and offensive reference to sex or bodily functions; coarse and rude. And, the roast I referred to above personified vulgarity in its ugliest form.
For me, words are neither good nor bad. But, circumstantially, they may be appropriate or inappropriate. Even a word like “fuck” can sometimes be appropriate when used late at night on Comedy Central, but NEVER on the Disney Channel.
And, even when used on Comedy Central, the appropriateness of its use depends on whether a comedian is using it in a cerebral sense or a visceral sense.
Many years ago, a young comedian (David Steinberg) did a stand-up routine depicting the way young “cool” college students rationalize partying over studying for an exam.
He set the audience up for the punch line using a purely cerebral approach in describing the way college students think. “They figure,” he described, “that they have a ‘basic’ understanding of the material. So all they really need is a quick review of the ‘data,’ which they can do just before taking the test.”
He then described the handing out of the test and the ‘blue book’ (the paper on which students recorded their answers). He then mimicked one of these “cool” kids reading the first question.
“Defend or refute the contention that Early American Literature has become moribund.” At that point, still mimicking the student, he threw his head back, slapping his forehead with both hands, and delivered the punch line: “What the fuck does MORIBUND mean?!”
The audience roared with laughter, and no other word would have had the same comedic impact. However, it probably would not be appropriate for your prepubescent offspring to hear it.
But, by the most conservative of definitions, the use of the word was light-years from vulgar.
About thirty-years ago, I attended a stand-up routine performed by an up and coming comedian by the name of Bill Cosby. The most profane term he used was “asshole.” And, he used it in a very sophisticated, non-vulgar way.
He described the way that some of his friends constantly tried to get him to smoke some “weed.” He always refused, but they kept insisting that using the stuff enhanced a user’s personality. He replied, “Yeah, but what if you’re an asshole?”
Later, he described his wife’s determination to undergo “natural” childbirth. She was determined NOT to use drug-based painkillers during the process.
Then he described her reaction to that FIRST major contraction. “Her eyes turned red with flames shooting out of them as she bellowed, ‘GIVE ME MORPHINE!’” Then he described what happened when that second pain hit.
“She bolted upright in those stirrups and told everyone in that delivery room that MY parents were never married.” The audience erupted in laughter that lasted at least 3-minutes.
He could have used the word, “bastard,” but he didn’t. He simply left it to the audience’s aggregate sophistication to figure it out. It was both funny and as non-vulgar as it gets.
But, from what I heard during THIS “roast,” I must assume that a modern day description would be quite different. Profanity for its own sake saturated the room and vulgarity oozed, unrestricted, throughout the entire program.
I have no idea who most of those “comedians” were, but I found nothing funny in anything they said. Had it not been for an endless litany of crude references to certain body parts, the silence would have been deafening!
The late Dean Martin, along with a myriad of big name performers of the time (most of them also dead), must be turning in his grave.
Perhaps it’s a matter of a much lower aggregate audience IQ AND almost NO meaningful perspectives that have prompted many contemporary stand-up comics to stoop to the intellectual depths of feces-throwing primates to get laughs.
Finally, in compliance with the first sentence of this article, here is another area where imagination and perspective no longer seem to exist. At the very least, it seems that visceral thinking has all but annihilated cerebral analysis.
We all “know” that there is a mainstream news media “Liberal” bias in news reporting. We ALL “know” this because the RIGHTIES tell us it’s so.
Also, we all “know” that there has been, and still is, a Right Wing conspiracy in the way that the same mainstream news media reports the news. And, we ALL know this because the LEFTIES tell us it’s so.
Here’s a newsflash. There is no such thing as an unbiased news report. As long as perspective and context are part of the human psychic, they will play a role in the way news people report on the who, what, when, where, why, and how of news worthy issues.
The 24-hour cable news channels, particularly Fox and MSNBC, are blatant in their respective biases. Fox reports only in ways that make the Right look good and MSNBC does so only in ways that make the Left look good.
The only exception to this is Countdown with Keith Olbermann. He seems clueless of the fact that he is an unwitting front man for the likes of Sean Hannity, Bill O’reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck.
Whenever he’s not in the midst of one of his prolonged, emotion-packed “commentaries” railing against the Right (George Bush or Dick Chaney in particular), he’s reporting on every detail of every statement made by all of them on any given day.
Regardless, if you listen only to Fox, you have to be convinced that Obama and the Liberals are on the verge of gift-wrapping this nation to give to Hugo Chavez and socialism.
On the other hand, if you listen only to MSNBC, you have to be convinced that Conservatives want to destroy the planet and help the nation’s health insurance companies find more creative ways of deny coverage for the poor.
Newsflash number TWO! According to The Week magazine, on an average weeknight, Fox garners about two and a half million watcher/listeners. MSNBC pulls less than half as many (around 850,000).
Even combining both viewing audiences, they comprise only about 1% of America’s total potential audience.
Conversely, during the same average weeknights, ABC, CBS, and NBC (the combined bastion of Liberal-biased news) still attract over twenty million (that’s 20,000,000) viewers.
And, these outlets manage this precisely because their combined bias is nowhere near as overt as their cable counter-parts.
So, like it or not, as always, the American people are still wobbling about the center of most political and social issues. While the extremists (Left AND Right) make a lot of noise, most of us aren’t even listening.
Joe Walther is a freelance writer and publisher of The True Facts. You may comment on his column by clicking here.