AH, FALL. The season that murdered summer.
Back to school, back to work, back to slacks and sweaters. Hopeful coeds cross the thresholds of academic institutions to being their adult lives, or at least discover binge drinking and drug abuse, promiscuity, and debt. The leaves change, the lakes turn cold, and the Jewish get a month of holidays to get high.
But, of course, fall is not all about stoned Jews and freshman and the absence of white pants. It marks the beginning of the new television season, with new shows longing to become our new addiction, and old shows longing to keep our advertising dollars, especially those of us between 18-35, white, upper-middle class, and well-employed. WASPs FTW!
But television plays a more serious role in our lives than simple entertainment. It does more than facilitate eight hour couch marathons, replete with bathroom, meal, and masturbation breaks (separately). It convinces, confuses, and corrupts our lives, as we lay prisoner to its whims. Also, it televises Reba McIntire projects, which is Guantanamo-level torture.
The new TV season is here, and Headshots (a noted telephile…is that a thing?) looks at the TV lies that haunt us, condemn us to a life left wanting, lonely, and couch-ridden.
1. Love and Romance
What happens on TV in terms love and romance in real life is called stalking and bullshit. Shows like Friends, Grey’s Anatomy, and the like create a false sense of possibility. You know how love works in real life? It doesn’t. Ninety-eight percent of Americans end up alone or married to the person they hate most in the world. You know what happens when you continually show up drunk in the pouring rain outside your ex-girlfriend’s window screaming your love for her? You get a restraining order, pneumonia, and a wicked beating from her new boyfriend, Jeff, who’s a doctor and is hung like a tree, and takes her to Cuba and not Cleveland on vacation, and remembers things like her birthday and her parents names and why whiskey isn’t a food group, and wears pants everyday, and has a degree, and a job, and a savings account, and FUCK YOU EVELYN WE WERE MEANT TO BE TOGETHER, I STILL LOVE YOU, BABY. Call me.
2. Corruption of the Justice System
I’m not talking corruption as in bribes, but rather the tainting of a system built on the public juries. Shows like CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, and all the other shows with theme songs by The Who, have convinced those prospective jurors that every Podunk police department has DNA labs that can solve crimes with just the slightest trace of semen and that attorneys are beautiful, intelligent creatures who deliver Shakespeare-like speeches during a trial’s climax. In reality, very few crime scenes contain semen. Headshots know this. Headshots did some time for B and E in the ’90s, and we very rarely left behind semen. Juries belief in a the false forensic science of television let real-life criminals go free because the lack of computer generated crime scenes and convincing and attractive district attorneys. In fact, I would argue that all these shows have done is make criminals better criminals. And made the police procedural a tired and unwatchable genre.
3. Charlie Sheen
Charlie Sheen is not funny. At least, not intentionally. He’s a drug-addled ego-maniac with very little talent living off of the fame generated by nepotism and a celebrity-driven culture. Two and a Half Men is perhaps the least funny program to ever be popular in America. Its twenty-two minutes of flatulence and tit jokes makes an evening with Jeff Ross look like a PhD in Rhetoric. If getting drunk and high and paying for sex was actually a path to wealth and respect, Headshots would’ve achieved stardom in 1998. Sheen is riding some horrible wave of voyeurism and laziness driven by flyover America and Hollywood detachment to celebrity and an early death. And he keeps getting work. Whenever I show up to work drunk with a prostitute, I’ve got to polish by resume up and go back to bartending to make rent. Sheen gets a show on Fox FX. More shows and stars who won’t be funny this season: Matthew Perry in Go On, Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith’s kid (as well as stepdaughter of Antonio Banderas, and granddaughter of Tippi Hedrenin) somehow gets a job and sucks in Ben & Kate. And Ellen Barkin will spew homophobic bile in The New Normal. Makes one long for the days of According to Jim.
4. The 24 Week Year
You know who gets half the year off? Teachers, professors, TV actors, and the unemployed. Look, if I can tune into your lame sitcom every Monday at 8 pm (I’m looking at you, How I Met Your Mother) the least you could do is make at least 40 episodes a year. You know what we call a hiatus at Headshots? We don’t, because we fucking work 52 weeks a year like normal people. You’re telling me the Glee kids really need 28 weeks off to reenergize them selves before lip-synching to Journey tunes for thirty hours a week, 20 weeks a year? I’ve had hangovers that lasted longer than a TV season, and I still went to work, and when I got home from work all I wanted to do was order a pizza, sit on my couch, and watch a lame episode of The Big Bang Theory. The pizza guy showed up. The couch showed up. But BBT was a repeat because it was June, and I guess Johnny Galecki needs a three month power nap to return to annoying for the fall.
5. People Watch TV on TV When TV is on
Seriously, when’s the last time you watched a TV show NOT online? I did recently, and it’s horrible. There are commercials. The show starts and stops on its own whims. You can’t choose what’s on. TV on TV is dead, and the fact that the networks still believe that generations coming will tune in every Thursday at 8:30 to watch a failing Will Arnett sitcom is laughable. The era of appointment television has passed, with the exception of live sports and coverage of the US invading some country for oil. Unless the networks change their model soon, they’ll all be unemployed.
So at least their summers won’t change much.
Mike Spry is the author of JACK (Snare Books, 2008), which was shortlisted for the 2009 QWF’s A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry, and he was longlisted for the 2010 Journey Prize. His most recent work is Distillery Songs (Insomniac Press, 2011).