Saturday, July 21, 2007

Confessions of a Former TV Addict

While flipping channels yesterday, I came upon the latest reincarnation of Power Rangers and realized that the current Black Ranger, "Dr. Tommy O" is actually meant to be a wink so to speak to fans of the older show; Tommy, the pony-tailed Green Ranger who then became the White Ranger, was always my favorite and my faith in him has been justified; apparently he has achieved higher learning and become a professor and continues to fight evil, even as a grown-up.

Who could forget the political correctness of the original show, five teenagers representing the full spectrum of American society, though somewhat clothed in a less than politically correct way: Zack, the black kid, was the Black Ranger, Trini, the Asian, received the color yellow. The Red Ranger represented the white trash sector of the population, Billy the Blue Ranger represented the geeks, and Kimberly was all girl as the Pink Ranger. Kitch thrived in this show, and in its cousins, shows like Transformers, Thundercats, and that cross country race show where the only character I remember is Penelope Pitstop, who drove the pink girlie car.

Kitch defined lots of the television I watched during my formative and impressionable years, and I fully admit to watching way too much television. The Sunday morning ritual for my brother and myself gave my parents a chance to sleep in, as we were glued to the idiot box from 5:30 to 10 am, starting with classics likes Bugs Bunny and Road Runner, and Rocky and Bullwinkle - who taught me literature and opera and politics - and continuing on with cartoon like shows with terrible pre-CGI graphics.

That was its appeal, we knew that this did not represent reality, that each scene was filmed with little models later available at the toy store, that acting was not required, but rather extreme and deadly overacting. To this day, I would choose Captain Kirk over Captain Picard. Kirk overacted, broke all the rules, convinced computers to self-destruct by showing them their feelings, and got all the women; all this with a gut that would be unacceptable on television today. Picard, played by a gifted Shakespearean actor, ordered tea. Recently, watching a rerun of an original Trek show, the ship gets hit by an enemy vessel and the crew on the bridge starts flinging themselves around; if you look carefully, several of the extras are doing cartwheels on the set, celebrating their red shirt status. Now that is classic television.

These days, as a result of my toxic overexposure to television as a child, I have become quite selective of the television I do watch, and frankly, with the pace of my real grown up life, I have very little time during the week to zone out. As a Law and Order fan, I have no problem seeing former Senator Fred Thompson become President, he has more experience than Barack Obama, and inspires the kind of confidence and bravado that should keep the international community in line.

My one nasty television vice involves Survivor, the world stops when I watch that show, one of the first venues on television that exposed the greed and baseness of human nature (if you don't count the game show, Let's Make a Deal). I watch it as a sociologist, observing the depths of deception to which people are willing to go for money, and realize that perhaps my "Lord of the Flies" view of the world has some justification.

My friends tell me I should try out for the show, that I have the athleticism and brains to get far, maybe even win the million dollars. I hate to admit it, but I have become spoiled by basic creature comforts, and could not see myself living for 40 days without a shower, a steady supply of food and a good night's sleep. Gone are the days when I could go camping for several weeks, and stop paying attention to body odor. Besides which, as a scientist who has studied the data of Survivor, I know that the strong woman makes it to the jury but does not get the million dollars; ultimately, it's a man's world in TV land, and they won't allow a woman to out-sport them, or out-class them.

Unless you distract the men with a fantastic set of breasts...

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