There are some channels who have opted out of airing any influential or shows depicting the season on this lovely Christmas day. Similar to ploys like “sweeps week” where shows air to essentially ‘hook’ viewers into watching in order for high ratings, the wonders never cease in the ways that television can screw with people. I was looking forward to the parade of Christmas films they air every year. I mentally prepared for the exhausting airing of “It’s A Wonderful Life”, “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”, “A Christmas Carol”. But this year, at least two channels have decided to forgo the traditional and lamely air 24-hour marathons of…you got it…THE EXACT SAME MOVIE over and over and over again. Now, I don’t mind watching and re-watching a film that happens to air on one channel, then re-airs on another ad nauseum, but this decision takes the cake. I mean, it’s the SAME CHANNEL! not an affiliate, not an oversight, not coincidence.
What is it about televisions that make them so engaging, so necessary? Besides the notion that we are missing out on some valuable information (that we somehow cannot get from newspapers and the internet), televisions have become an essential piece of furniture. In the 50’s, no one cared about pixels or clarity of the boob-tube. If you were lucky to own one of those expensive standup units (in black and white no less), it was somewhat a novelty. No one can deny its entertainment value…I mean, do I really need to watch every episode of “Top Chef” or “Law & Order : SVU”? The news isn’t all that newsworthy anymore, especially since the introduction of Fox 5 that loves to preempt their news with commercials marketing programming like, “The Simpsons”. One can even dare to say that marketing ploys are now as prevalent thanks to the introduction of streaming text, logos that are placed on the bottom of your screen, and parental-control ratings on the upper left hand side of the screen. Basically, it is getting more and more difficult to even see what’s playing. I believe that this new trend has become the hilarious subject of several comedic skits on Comedy Central, although at the moment I can’t locate them on You Tube. But whatever.
Let’s observe for a moment, the characteristics of the machine we call a television…
1. Its That Eerie Glow – Like a phantasmagorical ghost, one of its main identifiers is a creepy glow that sometimes lingers long after the unit has been turned off.
2. Static…It’s Electric! Boogy Oogy Oogy!– Films have often used television static as a pre-cursor setting the tone for horror flicks: remember, Carol Ann in “Potergeist”? The static can even foreshadow a murder scene, giving the viewer a sense of uneasiness. Some films insinuate that there are hidden messages in the static. Remember that Michael Keane movie, “White Noise”? Even if you don’t, just pretend you do.
3. It’s Pixelated! – Nothing shocks and awes more than the wonder that is pixelation. The tighter the pixel, the better the visual quality of your boob-tube experience. Or, something like that. Don’t ask me those techie questions, alright?! LCD or Plasma? Puh-lease! Not with my wallet.
4. You Snooze, You Win – Aside from thinking, televisions have more features these days. I mean, they’re working harder than you… Have a tendency to fall asleep when the boob tube’s on? No problem. Now, televisions can be set to ‘snooze’ just like the affectionate bump-on-a-log you’re sleeping next to. Only it doesn’t snore. Halleluyah!
5. Look! It’s Got Picture In Picture! – Does anyone ever use this feature? No. Does everyone want this feature? Yup. The concept of being able to watch a football game and the latest episode of Dancing With The Stars AT THE SAME TIME was thought up by a multi-tasking bastard. First of all, it is impossible to see both at once and it is often a futile exercise to attempt to see both simulataneously. Kind of like an 80s video cliche where the lead singer stands in front of a wall of tv’s displaying various random images. It’s visually interesting, but distracting.
6. What?! I can’t hear you… – Amp up the pixels is overrated. You know what the people really want? They want to annoy their neighbors by raising the decibel levels. They want to feel the noise…girls rock your boys and get wild, wild, WILD!!! (OK, I promise I’ll stop with the 80s references) So now they can get televisions that can connect to surround sound, with THX technology and make tv so loud the other side of the world can hear. Why not? We’re Americans. Americans like everything BIG, just like Texans.
7. I’m Not Fat, I’m FLAT – Forget those gargantuan wall-unit televisions that doubled as weight-bearing columns for your home. No more. They’re not only phatter, but they’re flatter. And they flatter any flat. (I couldn’t resist) Flat screens are everywhere and they shame any older models that lumbered, rolled, and scraped their way through houses of the past. Now, if you want to watch tv on the ceiling–in theory–you can. Not that you would of course because that would be gauche. Gauche, I say!
State-of-the-art televisions are indeed a wonderful thing to own. They’ve managed to entertain us and could always offer some temporary escape. In family gatherings which can become awkward, it offers programs like football that serve as the common ground by which males can gather and bond. For women, there’s always the We channel and Lifetime movies to bond to. With bratty children, a quick flick on the remote can keep them occupied for hours instead of playing in Mommy’s underwear drawer. But, televisions in no way can replace human contact or community. Nor can it be a permanent babysitter or a vital part of your life. If it is, then perhaps you should tune out and tune into life. No one should have to stop their enjoyment because they can’t miss “People’s Court”. That only worked for Rain Man.