Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Chapter Four: In which I mourn a loss and curse the gods of media

One of the cool features of our digital cable system is the fact that there's an online program directory available at any given moment. With one flick of a button on the remote, the current crap program minimizes into a corner of the screen and the full listing of up to 250 other crap programs are displayed for you to scroll through by channel, by time or by date. The depressing part of this, of course, is that inevitably reminds me that there's very nearly nothing on worth watching. Don't get me wrong... there are occasionally a number of good things on some of the cable channels like TLC, Discovery, Science Channel, Travel Network... but network television has simply turned into a bone yard.

I grew up in the first television generation, and all through my life I can remember certain shows that stick out in my mind as defining television entertainment in the various chapters of my ongoing autobiography. The pages under this category for the last few years would, sadly, be blank.

It was this line of thinking which led me to break out my DVD collection of what was possibly one of the best television shows to ever see air time - My So Called Life. This show burst onto the national radar in 1994 and it was something truly new, unique and compelling. This series took a look at the horrible, degrading, daily tragedy of high school life. The show was compelling and quickly picked up a grassroots following - unfortunately that didn't translate into the monster ratings required to knock out Seinfeld and the other sitcom pablum. ABC, in one of the bigger acts of cowardice in network history, yanked the show partway into the second season. I think I still haven't entirely recovered.

Claire Danes broke the mold of females, even young ones, who had to be either impossibly pretty or blatantly "ethnic" to take the lead in a television series. She showed so much promise that it was almost painful to watch her career collapse before it even began. (How did she get talked into doing The Mod Squad??) Wilson Cruz was brilliant, and A.J Langer did a great job with a beautifully written character. And the show was just filled with moments. From the opening bell there was music ... but beyond. Plucked guitar strings two octaves up from the base and the whispered voice of a teenage girl saying, "Go... now... go!"

Damn you, ABC. That may have been the beginning of the end.

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