The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

TELEVISION WILL EAT ITSELF
And it will gorge itself on such pablum as reality programs, pop culture nostalgia fests and home improvement shows. That's the current pattern being set by the proliferation of "TV crack" programming, which celebrates television about (older) television.

There is some peril in all this stripmining of the past:

But Syracuse's Robert Thompson sees some ecological troubles ahead for the VH1s of the world. "We are clear-cutting the pop cultural past a lot faster than we are reforesting it," he warns. "Now we're getting to the point where some of the most distinctive and memorable culture is repackaged culture."

That means television will soon have nothing left to celebrate but shows like "I Love the '80s," and future generations will fondly recall not icons like Ralph Malph, but rather Michael Black making fun of the long-running TV series "Happy Days."

The consensus culture is fading: With mediocre shows like "Yes Dear" permeating the top 10 list nowadays, there may soon be little of value left to mock -- or in Trio's case, study.

This news dovetails nicely with my own personal disenchantment with these kinds of shows. A few months ago, I was mesmerized for practically a whole day by VH1's "I Love the 70s". I must have overdosed on it or something, because now, I can't stand watching more than a minute or two of the 80s followup version. I'm not sure why; normally, I'd scarf up all that kitsch. There is a certain amount of sameness in all the dumbass talking heads giving their inane takes on twenty-year-old fads and phenomenons; I guess these B- and C-list celebrities are a bit much to take all at once.

Then again, maybe there's something more uniquely appealing about 70s nostalgia, compared to 80s nostalgia, for me:

I think for me, and others who were born during the 70s, it's due to a sense of having missed out on all the fun. I mean, I was there during that groovy era, having been born in 1971. But really, I wasn't. Not really. I was a little kid, and it took pretty much the entire decade to achieve some sort of general awareness of life. Thus, when I starting coming of age in the 80s and 90s, I came to a slow realization that a whole bunch of great stuff flew way over my head back in the day. It really makes that time seem magical. (I suppose if I were born ten years earlier, I would have felt that way about the 60s; or not.)