This ish of CoN is about TV, and it so happens that I'm uniquely qualified to talk about it. I studied it in school. In fact, I have a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Radio and Television. No joke!
I am therefore definitively able to give answers and insight on TV. I'm an expert. Although I haven't read the other articles people submit, I'm guessing they all pretty much lean towards the same conclusion:
And yes, as an expert, I can say with authority that TV sucks. But what most people aren't aware of is the extent to which it sucks. You only see the finished product. Let me tell you, a great deal of sucking goes on behind the scenes too. And yes, you can have multiple interpretations of "sucking" in the last sentence and have it still be accurate.
I was there right from the beginning--going to school learning how to do television. And believe me, if you think you have a low opinion of TV now, try studying it school.
Let me qualify that by saying it's not that I didn't enjoy my time in school. In fact, I loved it. I was sad when I was over. I met lots of interesting people while I was there, including the executive producers of The Simpsons and even one of Seinfeld's staff writers. The students were a riot (we had one or two of the usual losers, but nothing you wouldn't find in other education program) and I even liked most of my teachers (we had one or two of the usual losers, but nothing you wouldn't find in other education program).
The problem is, take that glossy, flashy emptiness of TV. Now imagine building a personality along those lines.
It's not that there aren't good people in TV. But let's just say that the general environment isn't really conducive to being an honest, down to Earth person.
You could see that in some of the students already. Several of them had a head start on being shallow, empty-headed packaging. These people had no useful skills whatever. If a nuclear war devastated the planet and you had to restart civilization with a handful of people, these people would not be designated engineers, or lawmakers, or farmers. Instead you would cannibalize them on day two. TV I think was created for these type of people to succeed.
Again, there were plenty of good people. And you know what? A lot of them are too nice, too smart, and too hardworking for their own good. It's not likely they'll get in. A friend of mine I know does have a successful career as a freelance scriptwriter, and another did somehow become the producer of a religious show (She's violently anti-religious too, which should give you a good idea of how TV operates). The rest of them seem to be have trouble going beyond minor jobs at local cable stations.
Strangely, learning TV at school produced some of the most boring and awful courses ever devised. You'd think it would be interesting or comfortably mindless--didn't we like, watch a lot of TV? Well, yes we did. But we did more writing, constructing, designing and analyzing TV stuff to really watch a lot of it. By the way, if you think watching a bad TV show is unbearable, try deconstructing "Who's the Boss" scene by scene, due Monday. You probably say something like "Can't I do something more fun, like give cows enemas or something?"
We had one brutal two-hour Friday morning class called "Survey of Media." Popularly known to the students as "Survey of Tedium." And look, I know you've had your boring classes, but I will not listen to your claims that you had the most boring class ever. I'm telling you now without a doubt in my mind that Survey of Tedium was the most boring class ever, and I will not entertain arguments to the contrary. It was the most skipped class out of any other in the program. And we "learned" things like how many kilohertz Radio Bulgaria operates on. For two hours. The exam was legendary, but this is a patented Kenn Scott ((tm)) story that I don't have the rights too. Maybe I can encourage him to write the story some day. He was so scarred by the experience that he kept a copy of the exam, just so people would believe what we went through.
Another unpleasant memory that comes to mind is on the final day of classes, second year. Most people were skipping classes left and right that day. For some reason that I will always regret, I went to one class that I normally skipped (all year). They were showing a documentary that we were to sit back and watch. Easy class, right?
Wrong. The documentary was on diarrhea. No, I'm serious. Right before lunch too.
Some other students would walk in late. As they arrived at the door, I would wave them off and yell "NOOOOO! It's too late for me, save yourselves! RUN!"
I had friends to keep me sane though, and insulate me from the dead-weight. You know, the vain, space cadet types with no kind of aesthetic sensibility whatever. Of course, the vain, space cadet types with no kind of aesthetic sensibility whatever are probably driving Italian sports cars to work now. There were a few that were so useless they had a genius for it.
One person in particular that I'll refer to as "Julie," though her real name is Catherine Mahoody, and she can reached at email@example.com. Julie had the brilliant ability to get everyone to do her work for her. In part because she was drop-dead gorgeous. I think she also had some kind of mind-controlling ability too, because she turned hardened men into putty and then moulded them into ashtrays. If she was in your project group you can bet she would do nothing while you did her share of the project, and quite possibly her grocery shopping too. You'd see nothing wrong with this. You were under her spell. After she was done with you she'd move along to her next victim, leaving you feeling kind of stupid. The men out there will be familiar with the feeling you get when you realize that a woman has used sex to completely manipulate you (if you're lucky). You feel embarrassed, yet not exactly bad for what you've done. In Julie's case, it was like getting fucked, but without the sex, and yet you didn't.
I remember one poor friend of mine, Eddie, saddled with her as a partner on a school project. She wouldn't show up most of the time, so he'd wander her the call forlornly calling "Julie!" He tried to reform himself later, with a different project. When partnerships were being formed, he stayed well away from her. But she used the ol' Julie Jedi Mind Trick on him. She asked if she could be his partner again. As it happens, Eddie already had a partner, but you were allowed to have three people in your group. With superhuman effort, my friend managed to gasp "Ask John." John was the other partner in the group. So Julie went up to John and said "Eddie said I can be in your group." And so she was in.
Yes, he's a Grade A chump for falling for her tricks twice, but I'm in no position to pass judgement on him. My memory is hazy, but I'm pretty sure I did her laundry once. And I regret nothing. In fact, I think I thanked her. If she were to show up in my life again she'd probably have my credit card in no time.
No, scratch that, she probably has no use for me now. She probably lives in a mansion with enough cars to match her dresses, and uses naked Chippendale dancers for furniture. I'm small potatoes now.
Those are just a few of the shenanigans that immediately come to mind. There are many more. These are the people who will in theory be in charge of mass media in the new millennium. And this is a small sample of what they went through at school. Out there in the unreal world (strictly speaking, TV doesn't have a real world) things get even crazier.
I'm not working in radio or TV, and for that, I am grateful. You may think that your job has petty politics and stupidity where style is valued over substance. I'm sure it's no picnic, but remember, TV is the environment where these people flourish.
With in mind is it really any wonder that Pamela Anderson got a second series?