American Savage — Dear Television: Really?!


An Open Letter to the people that decide what is on my TV:
Who the hell are these people on my television? I’ve been staring and staring, and I can’t figure it out. Some of them are in suits and ties, and they appear to be delivering the news.
But something is off. Why is there a constantly moving scroll of text at the bottom, like an endless stream of consciousness from some anonymous news director? Where is Cronkite? Where is the shining voice of assurance and reason amidst the noisy chaos? I don’t see him. He’s not around.
Lots of color, though: high definition 3-D graphics with theme music. It’s all very confusing. And what about all these other people?
What are all of these chefs and lumberjacks and painfully average people doing with their own shows? Why do they have Twitter accounts and Facebook pages? Do lumberjacks even use Twitter?
And why are people always yelling on my TV? Every channel, it’s sports wash-ups or rich, bored women constantly screaming like banshees on a rollercoaster. Every teaser for next week, every clip, people shouting in big houses, shouting at restaurants, shouting in the streets and in nightclubs.
These talk shows, these damned talk shows. What qualifies these people to host these shows? I’m a bit unclear about who this Piers Morgan fellow is. That guy with the suspenders, you know, the one that interviewed important people with thoughtful questions? What ever happened to that guy, and who is this limey weasel they’ve replaced him with?
Call me old-fashioned, but do we need this many channels? MTV is just getting greedy and I’m not sure enough organized sports exist to fill ESPN’s 1-38. And even if they could, who the hell can follow cricket?
Speaking of sport and spectacle, who let all these people running for president on my television so often? What are they babbling about? I can make neither heads nor tails of it. The Texan gives me the creeps, and that Mormon fellow looks like the last guy that tried to sell me a car.
Are they paying for all this airtime they keep getting on my television? Everywhere I turn, one of them is barking at me about the impending Armageddon and the dangers of a Kenyan president.
All these silly advertisements don’t help either. That Geico gecko — the redcoat that he is — makes me feel uncomfortable around reptiles. And no, I don’t need a 2010 Model S Supercharged Anything. Also, the gum commercials are getting really out of hand (looking at you, 5 Gum.)
Why do all the narrators in these commercials sound so familiar? How’d you get these respected actors to lend their vocals to cheap, plastic, foreign-made crap? Is there some contractual obligation that forces Oscar-nominees to read for Honda and MasterCard? Shame on you, Forrest Gump, shame on you.
Look here, people in charge of television: you really dropped the ball on this one. The people handed you the airwaves in exchange for a promise to inform and entertain us. But all you’ve done is taken the truest American art form and turned it into a cautionary tale (like your mom said, TV will turn your brain to mush, numb your emotions and turn you into a walking violence-machine.)
I liked TV. But I shouldn’t need Comedy Central to deliver the most straightforward version of the news. I shouldn’t be embarrassed every time my local news covers sports and pet shows instead of public schools, elections and employment.
As a journalism major and member of the media, I shouldn’t have to apologize for you every time people hear my job title.

American Svage is a weekly column written by Journal opinion editor Collin Reischman

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