I’ve now been successfully retired for over ten years. The definition of ‘successful retirement’ means two things: a) I’m still here – and – b) I have become expert at watching television.
Those of you facing retirement soon or perhaps just embarking on your (hopefully) slow mental and physical deterioration may wonder what to expect as you disassociate yourself from real interaction with real people while you dissolve into a pool of stagnant cortisol, your only window into the real world provided by what you see on Cable TV.
The following is meant to give you an idea of today’s Cable TV environment as compiled through my highly sophisticated powers of observation and analysis.
Politics as Reported by Today’s NEWS
Let’s begin our walk through of Cable TV Land with a discussion of Politics as presented to us 24×7 by innumerable television stations. (We’ll ignore Social Media insofar as this is a discussion of what’s served up on TV, AND as we all know it is illegal to publish anything on the Internet which isn’t the truth. Or so I’ve been told).
Moving on, if you’re chained to your couch all day and your sole physical activity is the workout you’re giving your thumb using the Remote, it is inevitable you will eventually stumble upon one of the many stations purporting to ‘serve’ you with the NEWS OF THE DAY. You may be experiencing extreme pain in your thumb from the overwork of channel surfing and if so, tarry a moment to hear what is being ‘served’ up today as news.
The first, second, third (and so on) and last thing you will learn is that ‘Trump Sucks’.
This fact will be repeated incessantly. Quite often it will be shouted out in discussion group sessions wherein the ‘winner’ of the Best Reason Why Trump Sucks will be the person most able to out scream other participants.
(For purposes of this article I will not enter into a philosophical discussion of whether Trump actually Sucks or not. I believe the facts speak for themselves and the arbiters of all that’s good and holy who live on Mount Olympus have pretty much settled on the answer to that question. I should point out, however, that at this point in time if the ‘news’ that Trump Sucks is in fact really news to you it’s probably important that you make every attempt to crawl out from under the rock that’s been sitting on your head for the past couple of years.)
Once enlightened that Trump Sucks based on the channel your wounded thumb settled on, as it recovers and you resume surfing, you will undoubtedly land on yet another station with a similar format and be subjected again to the non stop broadcasting of the news that Trump Sucks.
WARNING: It IS possible you may accidentally rest your ‘in danger of becoming gangrenous’ thumb on something called FOX NEWS. If you do, don’t be fooled. The news as reported on this channel MAY report something to the effect that Trump Doesn’t Suck.
Carefully note that virtually all of the Trump Doesn’t Suck reporting done by this channel is presented by hot women with great cleavage, or by Tomi Lahren – a precocious fifteen year old in training to become a hot woman with great cleavage. You can disregard such reporting insofar as if you’re a man, you actually aren’t HEARING what is being said. You’re just developing serious eye strain. If you’re a woman, you’re probably rabid with jealousy and you haven’t heard a word that’s being said anyway.
And that will be the sum total of what you learn from the news each and every single day.
A possible exception is you may also be treated to a weather report presented by someone called a Weather Bunny in which you will be informed that the world will end today and each and every subsequent day included in the five day forecast. Don’t sweat that. It’s bullshit.
Moving on through Cable TV Land, the next apparently can’t do without offerings are something called, generically, COOKING SHOWS.
How to describe these? It’s difficult to put into words.
For starters, what we CAN say is there are hundreds of these stations. If there weren’t your Cable TV provider would be forced to admit that the 582 Cable Channels you’re paying for actually include only 15 channels or so that AREN’T Cooking Shows.
Next, as we move from Cooking Show to Cooking Show we note that apparently to cook anything requires availability of a kitchen whose footprint would dwarf the likely square footage which you personally inhabit along with your wife, children, pets and n’er do well mooching brother in law.
As you watch a recipe coming to life you’re astounded to find that it takes easily ten to fifteen different little glass dishes filled with a little bit of something that eventually gets tossed into the same pan to cook. AND you never, ever get to see how long it takes to wash all of those little glass dishes and pans after whatever is being concocted is concocted.
Likewise, you learn that cooking requires an unending supply of different sized and shape pans, each bubbling merrily away at just the right temperatures and in the time frame which fits exactly into what is needed and when.
To your amazement you will also find that in Cable TV Land, mankind has developed stove technology to the point where food to be cooked can be put into a magical oven on the top level and voila!, removed fully cooked from the bottom level of the oven instantaneously. If you thought the Biblical story of the Loaves and Fishes sounded suspect, here’s your proof. Apparently, the Hebrews created the magical oven centuries ago but somehow the secret, similar to the recipe for making Greek Fire, was lost until the advent of Cooking Shows.
Eventually if you’ve seen enough Cooking Shows it begins to dawn on you that there are at thousands different ways to cook anything. AND, you’ll also discover that the thousands of different ways are utterly meaningless insofar as most of what’s being cooked you’ve never even heard of. And if you did, you wouldn’t eat that stuff anyway.
Finally, be aware that the latest trend in Cooking Shows is to have wannabe or already are chefs compete against one another by giving them a bunch of ingredients which you either don’t recognize or if you did you wouldn’t feed to your dog. After an incredibly tense period of chopping things up and throwing those little dish contents into the pan out comes something you’d never, never eat and the ‘Judges’ decide whose monstrosity tastes the best.
This trend has devolved from having real chefs compete to having rookie chefs paired against one another, and now even children are now competing, the latter usually producing something which with very little imagination you can easily see the Judges chewing up and spitting into a slop bucket as soon as the camera leaves them.
HGTV. Who said Rome wasn’t built in a day?
The sheer number of channels offering home makeover ‘entertainment’ is dwarfed only by the number of Cooking Show channels. The probable reason for this is it’s easier and cheaper to fill little glass dishes with stuff and cook instantaneous meals using the magical ovens than it is to draw architectural plans, obtain financing, engage contractors, purchase and deliver building materials, obtain building permits from bribed public servants, fire non performing contractors, hire new ones, pour concrete and let it set – well, you get the picture.
Nonetheless, every day in Cable TV Land we are treated to the spectacle of usually two Hosts, one of whom is often a hot woman with great cleavage who attempts to convince us during the show that she really does know something about construction as evidenced by her ability to pick up a hammer, and the other either a David Hasselhoff look alike who never worked a day in construction or a smarmy guy in an ill fitting suit.
These folks first walk us through the pathetic before shape of whatever structure needs a makeover. Sometimes it’s even entertaining if this occurs right in front of the current inhabitants of the structure. Must be a real upper to be standing in front of the cameras while Ms. Cleavage, Mr. Smarmy/Hasselhoff comment upon the filth, mold and really awful unsanitary conditions in which you’ve been raising your family.
Ah well. So on we go. Cleavage/Smarmy/Hasselhoff thankfully have the solution to whatever the problem is and in the blink of an eye all of the aforementioned preparatory work is done, construction begins, ‘surprise’ obstacles are overcome (Good Lord! We found the toilet actually empties into the kitchen sink!) and kaboom, we have a beautiful, brand new environment built within an hour.
Fade to the current inhabitants tearfully gazing upon their new Taj Mahal surroundings, Cleavage/Smarmy/Hasselhoff waving goodbye as they walk into the sunset (probably heading for some cheap Motel for you know what), credits roll and NOBODY EVER SEEMS TO GET PAID FOR ANYTHING!!!
Bet the kids are just happy their chances of getting bit by a rat are considerably diminished.
Admit it. If it weren’t for shows like America’s Got Talent (AGT), American Idol, The Voice, American Ninja Warrior (ANW) and the growing number of Channels with derivative formats, the Entertainment Industry’s talent pool would be about as deep as the Dead Sea in the middle of August.
American Idol led the way in presenting what used to be called ‘Talent Shows’ in the old days and in the beginning was pretty entertaining as we watched a good mix of truly talented performers move ahead in the competition while perfectly awful singers and performers humiliated themselves, generously bashed with insults by a Brit in a T-Shirt.
As the years have gone by this show has proceeded to embarrass itself as the Judges either mellowed or had their lives threatened by the losing and humiliated Bulgarian Brother’s Tonsil Band. Nowadays, even the backstories of the competitors are lame (who knew there were so many opera singers living in trailer parks in this Country?) and seldom does the Brit T-Shirt guy even bother to mention how much most of the auditioning competitors suck.
This genre, collectively called Reality TV, fills the Cable waves with scads of ‘acts’ that, as time goes by, are either repetitive, silly, or even semi-suicidal as real people reach for the brass ring only to be cast back into life situations which leave them as has beens with nothing but an asterisk on their resume documenting their attempt at greatness on some Reality TV Show.
But hey, if that asterisk gives you an edge on that McDonald’s window order taker job, most certainly go with it!
Moving on, the absolute silliest Reality TV Shows are those which pretend to follow young men and women as they try to develop romantic relationships. The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are the top contenders for Most Stupid Concept in this category.
I mean, if these shows were really ‘Reality’, instead of those stupid rose ceremonies, the Bachelor guy would be given a case of condoms and each ‘suitor-ess’ or whatever they call the female supplicants would each be given an adequate supply of IUD’s. (Naturally, the closer you get to the end of a Bachelor Season, the more IUD’S the diminishing number of female contestants would be given.) The Bachelorette series would likewise involve an appropriate distribution of safe sex products.
The one TV Reality Show you might enjoy is American Ninja Warrior (ANW) I have to hand it to the male and female competitors on this show. These people are the real deal when it comes to toughness, strength, agility, stamina and (usually) their ability to strike solid/cushioned objects full face and fall into a cauldron of boiling oil. (Ok, I made that up. It’s really just water but wouldn’t it be REALITY COOL if it really was boiling oil?).
Another thing I like about ANW is that as an ancient, couch bound retiree, I can watch the show and actually feel myself reaching, jumping, straining, and climbing right along with the contestants. Or at least I used to until I pulled a groin muscle fantasizing about doing one of their stunts.
For those of us of a certain age, our TV Channel selection was limited to Channels 2, 5, 7 and 9. Eventually Channel 11 appeared as the start of Public Television and did and continues to do a reasonable job of providing solid, fairly sophisticated entertainment and shows which serve to increase one’s knowledge of the world around us. Bravo for them.
On the down side those PBS telethons which seem to be broadcast every other day or something like that are most definitely repetitive, boring, even annoying. Kind of seems like an exercise in Technological Street Begging.
Then came UHF TV stations, followed by Cable and Satellite TV. Today’s Cable TV environment has something for everyone (there’s even an interesting Channel called AHC which stands for American Heroes Channel but if you watch it often enough it looks more like the All Hitler Channel with its constant documentaries of Hitler’s life and politics) and as you move forward in retirement you’ll likely have the opportunity to sample them all.
I heartily encourage you to do just that as you begin to shuffle off your mortal coils.
And please let me know if you come across one of those magical ovens!