Thursday, April 15, 2004

Pop Culture

I believe there is a conspiracy to make television unwatchable.

Let me back up and say that I don't watch television much. I haven't watched a show regularly since Buffy went off the air.

I watch the news in the morning. I channel surf sometimes when I really need to let my brain lie fallow, often ending up on comedy central or VH1.

When CNN started running the ticker tape, I was mildly annoyed. It was like seeing something out of the corner of your eye. I would just catch the tail end of something interesting on the ticker as a segment I wanted to see started to run, or the beginning as the station was going to a commercial break.

But at least they were offering you a choice. Ticker or the TV: Pick your poison. That's sane, right? I mean, it's sort of odd to run competing information on the same channel. But, you know. Their call.

So, it really surprised me when VH1's Top 20 Video Countdown started running clips of commentary over their videos. I had started looking forward to catching up on my cultural literacy Sunday mornings, with the countdown. Only to find one dismal morning that VH1 had decided to deliberately obscure the subject of their show by having people talk over them.

The superimposed commentary is the hipper than thou variety modeled by I Love the 80's, which was the only thing playing on VH1 between approximately June of 2003 and January of 2004. Some small time comedian, media commentator, or whomever tells us what they think about a given topic. For I love the 80's, it was such topics as Dungeons and Dragons (which disappeared sometime after 1989, I guess. I mean, if you don't pay attention to the world around you much) and "Funky Cold Medina," a song which disappeared so completely after it was on the charts that I, who was listening to alternative rock at the time, was never even aware of it until I saw I Love the '80s. Sometimes the commentary is just a soundbite about how the non-star doesn't think about the subject much, after all. Which is actually anti-relevant.

I am so totally disinterested in what people I have never met, never seen perform, and have no reason to admire think about pop cultural ephemera, or anything else, that I Love the 80's often made me feel like my brain was being reformatted. I guess that's the point of channel surfing, right? But how many times can you watch I love the 80's? Apparently, some people can do it all the time, because that's how often VH1 ran it for a while.

And it's really the anything else that's the real problem. 'Cause I did watch I love the 80's. I grew up in the '80's. Sue me. I'm sort of interested. But now the format is spreading everywhere. To every subject.

Nothing can make celebrities less interesting than Starlicious Makeovers. It's almost anti-informative to do five minute spots on a famous person, and throw in random commentary from the peanut gallery.

I guess I figured I could just disown the "I Love The" format by tuning off VH1. Only to turn on Comedy Central last night and find The 100 Greatest Stand Ups proceeding very handily to make stand up comedy excruciatingly dull. Which, for me, is just the ashy butt of a slow burning but all consuming trend. I now cannot comfortably watch television at all, waiting anxiously for the other shoe to drop. I think to myself: "I want to watch Dave Attell... but... what if they replace South Park with 100 best yadda yaddas?"

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