When Jesus comes, it will not be as big an event on TV as the DTV.gov analog to digital changeover. All year they’ve been pummeling me with that stuff! Did even the election get as much hype? It’s been so heavy that Mrs. Sheepandgoats finally broke down and sent away for one of those converter coupons (the government is bailing out the TV viewer, kicking in $40 toward each converter box) Me, I would have waited till the screen went dark, then called the station to complain. Nah, we don’t have cable. I’m old enough to remember when TV was free, so it got locked in my head that TV ought to be free, and I’ve successfully resisted all attempts to make me pay for it. Even the converter box frosts me a little, but since the government is paying the lion’s share, I guess I’ll go along.
Not only are these television folk persistent, but they are brazen as well. They say the switch will happen at a certain day and hour in February. How do they know? It’s risky. Sure, they rely on their calendars and calculations and such, but that can mess you up. What if it doesn’t happen when they say it will? Talk about egg on your face! Why chance it? We all know it’s coming. Better to say it is imminent, coming very soon, just around the corner, and leave it at that.
So much have we heard this message of doom to those trusting in analog….for a solid year now….and its not as if its a hard concept to grasp, all they want is for you to spend some money for a converter box….that one begins to wonder why. Could it be that the television industry fears that analog Americans might actually let the screen go dark, turning to other pursuits? I admit, at first this sounds absurd, since all-evening TV is the American dream. But maybe that’s changing. After all, the mainstay in-the-bag viewers signed up long ago for cable or satellite and therefore won’t be affected by the switchover. It’s the people still getting by with rabbit ears (on their televisions, that is) who just might bolt. Unlike decades ago, there’s lots of alternatives now, mostly the internet (which I use as my unlimited library card). You wouldn’t even have to toss your television in the trash, necessarily. It’s still good for DVD movies from Netflix, Blockbuster, or (I like this) the library.
Fear in the industry seems possible to me. Perhaps there really is fear a of boycott. Many are ambivalent about television today. This blog post, in which I put in my two cents….actually four or five….in the comment section, and continued for a time until I got overpowered by pests, whiners, apostates, and soreheads, ridicules an Awake! suggestion to avoid immoral or violent TV fare. What is on today that is not immoral or violent, the blogmaster asks incredulously. Exactly. Almost nothing. Of course, we all ignore the Awake! and watch that crap anyway, but we don’t feel good about it afterwards. It’s all somewhat debasing, and even as we lap it up by the hourload, something within us says it’s not so good for our mental, emotional, and spiritual health. So chuck it! Let the screen go dark and turn to something more wholesome.
Television will have done it to itself. For if there is nothing but violence and immorality, that was not always the case. Hereis a post highlighting words of the 81 year old Dick Van Dyke. Yeah, it may have been somewhat prudish to insist upon “one foot upon the floor” in the bedroom scenes of his show, he says, but contrast that with what pours out of the pipe today, to be beamed abroad to culturally conservative countries that see American television as the country’s prime export and so wonder at what a sick country the U.S. must be.
We had a couple from the congregation over for dinner recently. Nice folks, we enjoyed their company and no, we didn’t play any Bible games. But they got antsy as the evening wore on, and as 9PM approached, they all but jumped up and down like kids having to go to the bathroom. They were worried about missing The Unit! (or was it 24?) After they left, I turned on the set to see what the fuss was about. Not thirty seconds into the show, one fellow was holding a knife to another’s eye so as to get him to talk. I turned the set off, but within a week saw the same knife-to-eye trick on some other preview; apparently it’s the rage today. And wasn’t there, just last week, an NPR report on how third-rate terror countries look to Unit-type shows to augment their training?
Now, telling this experience makes me look pious and righteous, and our pals not so good. But don’t you think I have hangups of my own? Do you think? TV watching just doesn’t happen to be one of them. Moreover, I fully realize these shows are addicting. Chances are I too would get hooked were I to see enough of them.
It was Andy Laguna the circuit overseer….was it during the 1980’s?….speaking about gradualism. We’d never go directly from Gunsmoke to today’s sadism….we just wouldn’t tolerate it…. but nobody tries to take us there directly. Instead, it is one tiny step at a time, a journey of many decades which you have to have been around for long enough (trust me, I have) to appreciate. As a kid, the Twilight Zone used to scare the everlovin daylights out of me. Now I work with a young mother who plunks her two-year old in front of Chucky movies. (I think I’ve persuaded her it’s not such a hot idea.) The change in what we tolerate came not directly, but through gradualism. Mack Campbell got everyone applauding for that talk….unusual because this was a mid-week talk, and they’re not typically applauded.
So maybe…finally….TV has got itself so perverse that…….Uh ohhhh! As I write this over the course of several days, I just heard it announced (1/7/09) that the government has run out of funds for converter coupons! There will be blood in the streets if they don’t print some more. (coupons or money or both) This could be the event that triggers Armageddon!