Our Town downtown
November 6, 2006
Beyond the time-killing, time-wasting, sit-you-in the-same seat-for-hours-on-end nature of television, there is the issue of its repetitiveness. I generally only go to it for sports now, but I can remember how it all works from watching the games. The end of the Jets game a week ago: The catch-not-a-catch in the end zone to maybe tie it up at the end of regulation was shown so many times, you thought maybe the receiver Chris Baker was going to turn to the camera and say I’m not going to do another one. But he’s not Marshall McLuhan and I’m not Woody Allen, and the replays continued from all angles.
I was somewhere the other night where I saw John Kerry on the tube in front of microphones. I didn’t hear what he was saying so I don’t know if what I was seeing was the original gaff where he was, they say, trying to be a jokester; or was I watching his defense of his gaff? Whichever it was, I’m sure it was shown as much as the end-zone-catch-not-a-catch. I’ll bet you could turn to any of the news channels and news-funny shows like you could the sports shows on that Sunday night and see the Kerry scene tens of times. That’s a skewed view of the world, isn’t it?
To see an event replicated like that. What does that do to us? TV now in essence clones an event and parades it before us like identical new sheep. Or wait, yikes, is it we who are the sheep? If we’re sitting where we always sit in the same position, only the clothes are changed, are we clones of ourselves or just very similar to everyone else who’s sitting somewhere watching in their same seat, same pose they always sit in?
Maybe, unless it’s the Zapruder film or Willie Mays’s 1954 catch, we really don’t need to see it more than once. Did your father ask you to come down the stairs in your gown five times in a row on your wedding morning? Did your mother pick up your report card a dozen times and scrutinize it? How many times did you lose your two front teeth? Why do we want to see so many TV clips over and over? Or do we just sit down in that one place we always sit and strap ourselves in for the night and take what the box gives us? Even if we think we’re masters of our time with TiVo, sitting is sitting. As I say to those kids who sit with a cardboard sign on the sidewalk asking for money, when I see ‘em sitting down early—for the day—on a nice sunny morning, I say (and this is made up, but that doesn’t really matter), I’ve got a friend who’s crippled and he’d give anything to be able to walk around on a nice day. Why do you want to spend your day like this?
Think how many times you’ve seen Madonna and the baby lately, Red Auerbach and his cigar, the end zone ‘catch’. As I write this it’s early on a Friday morning and I noticed on the way into work both tabloids had Tom Cruise on the cover about his new mogul-ness. At this moment for sure he’s being talked about on the morning shows, at least every time the news is updated on the half hour, and likely there’s a special segment with a movie insider/reporter on each network talking to the host about Tom and what it all means, and they’re probably showing him hopping on the couch again. Tonight they’ll have it on the nightly news if they didn’t last night and you’ll get to see him hopping again. He only hopped that one time though.
-- Bill Gunlocke