Friday, April 1, 2011

Reel Me In

It's the same old sorcery. You're off to bed, or you're tucked away in the corner 'neath the lamp reading a fascinating newspaper article about genetically engineered crops when you hear something that makes your ears twitch. The invisible wire reels you inexorably across the space between you and the witch and plop! you land in front of the television. You're watching a show you despise but you'll be with it til the bitter end - sleepiness gone, newspaper dripping with orange juice from the fruit you're dissecting, because it's impossible to be in front of the eerie blue lights of the TV without some sort of food in your hand.

Matlock. Murder She Wrote. Bonanza. These are a few of the names of the demon shows that are ostensibly boring, but suck you in if you let down your guard for an instant to take in the storyline. You don't want to watch. You can't stand to watch. You hate the plot. You hate the characters. You hate waiting for the old fogey to figure things out. You feel understandable anger against whoever created the premise of the stupid show.

But, well, there you are.

A few nights ago, I was bewitched by American Idol. I swore I'd never watch that show again - oh, about ten or so seasons ago. Okay, so it's not Matlock. There's no plot. There are plenty of characters, all of them singing. But there's no old fogey ruminating, unless one counts Steven Tyler with his nappy hair and thin pursed lip line. Supposedly, American Idol is reality TV, and reality TV is the new sorcery programming of the 21st century. You can't just casually allow it to pop up on the screen or you're doomed, no matter how superior you claim to be to all this crazy voyeurism. Watch even two minutes of any show with "Dance" or "Race" or "Loser" in the title, and you'll be wiling away an hour with a bag of chips and a group of people who are swinging their hips, trampling through horse manure to get a clue or getting brow beaten by a woman I like to call She-Man all in the name of popular entertainment.

And you'll be blotting away at the orange juice stains spreading across your newspaper during commercials, trying to make out the print about real life that really matters - until the next kid starts singing.

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