It’s one of those days you remember better than any birthday or wedding. Those were planned; these hit you suddenly, stunning your mind, breaking your heart. “The shuttle blew up!” “The Towers fell!”
The impact was even greater if you saw it happen in real-time. If you watched the shuttle launches. If you caught the breaking news before the second tower was hit. Saw the second plane, realized at that moment, “This is no accident!”
Even if you saw it after, you saw it; saw it as an attack.
In the last quarter of the 19th century — USA-centrically, call it 139 years ago — we began to experience having the sound of strangers’ voices in our lives, even in our homes. Not just voices, but music from concert halls and clubs. And other sounds, too: the clip-clop of horse feet, the slam of a door, a gun-shot. Less than 100 years go, those sounds went electric, and we never looked back.
At the beginning of the 20th century, we started another love affair — this one with moving images on rectangular screens, a dance of light and shadow, windows to imaginary worlds. Or windows to recorded memories or news of distant places. When sound went electric, those moving images took voice and spoke and sang. No one alive in our society today remembers a time when moving images weren’t woven into our lives.
Here, now, into the 21st century, in an age of streaming video and music, from cloud to your pocket device (with its high-resolution display and built-in video camera), I can’t help but be impressed by how far we’ve come.
A long way, indeed.
Governments and corporations will choose Friday as the day to release news that makes them uncomfortable. The logic is that people don’t pay attention to the news on Friday because they’re getting ready for the weekend.
Even if people do notice an uncomfortable news item, the hope is the weekend erases it from the 24-hour news cycle. Given our increasingly short memories these days, the logic works.
So I’ve decided to join in with my own info dump!
Credit where credit is due, both the major ideas in this post come from Fareed Zakaria on his CNN Sunday program, GPS. If you follow TV news at all, you know Sunday mornings have such long-running standards as Meet the Press (on NBC since 1947!) and Face the Nation (on CBS since 1954). (Or was it Meet the Nation and Face the Press?)
Zakaria is one of the good ones: very intelligent, highly educated, calm and measured. He’s well worth listening to. (I’ve realized one attraction to TV news is the chance to — at least sometimes — hear educated, intelligent talk. It’s a nice respite from most TV entertainment.)
Two things on Zakaria’s last episode really rang a bell with me.
This is the first of a series of articles that discuss something I believe is unique to humans. In fact, I think it’s one of the few things we can point to that does differentiate us from the animal kingdom. And it is something that goes deep into our past. It is our ability to use language to create and tell complex stories.
It is also one of my favorite topics. If you’ve read many of my posts, particularly those about movies and TV, you’ve seen me write about my love of stories.
There is an interesting continuum of storytelling modes. Books lie at one end; movies at the other. Plays and TV lie between. The continuum describes—in part—the experience of the audience. Here’s the deal…
This isn’t about the astrological sign of Leo, the Lion; it’s about television shows with LEOs in them. That is to say, Law Enforcement Officers. Cops. Heat. The Fuzz. The term covers civilian and military police, the FBI and any member of an organization charged with enforcing the law (Secret Service and Treasury agents or LEOs).
For our purposes, the term also covers lawyers and judges and others who adjudicate the law. As put by a hugely successful TV show, there are “two separate yet equally important groups: the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders.”
So here on the last day of this edition of TV Tuesday, “cop shows” are in the house! And some court room dramas! (You have the right to keep reading. If you choose to keep reading, any thoughts or memories you may have can be written down as comments and won’t be used against you.)
TV Tuesday now turns to the third serious contender for All-Time Favorite television series. I’ve taken the liberty of excluding Star Trek from consideration, because it’s so integrated into my life, so big that it transcends being just a “favorite TV series.” That leaves four in the Fave Five, and in the last two days I’ve celebrated the two top contenders.
Today I celebrate the series that, until it was knocked down by the other two, was easily my favorite show ever. It’s one of the only two series I tried to fully capture to video tape back in the 1990s (before DVDs made all that effort a sad, silly waste). The other series was Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The third place contender, formerly number one, is M*A*S*H.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s episode, there are two shows that vie for All-Time Favorite television series. Today’s episode of TV Tuesday is about the series that would—by just a nose—place in the race rather than win. (Tomorrow’s episode is about the show that shows. That’s the Friday Trifecta here: my television picks for win, place and show.)
And I have to say, it’s a really tough call, a photo finish. It’s quite possible that if you asked me at the right time, the order would change. In particular, if you asked me while I was in the middle of re-watching the series (which I may do this coming election season), I might be inclined to say that this horse was the winner.
The horse in question is The West Wing, created by Aaron Sorkin.
The next two episodes of TV Tuesday concern two shows that are easily in my Fave Five and sure contenders for Top Three. As I mentioned in the first post, there are two that really vie for the top slot, and one that would probably win. This episode is about that show.
This episode is about House, M.D.
As I’ve mentioned before, I watch television for stories that engage me, but more than that I watch television for the characters. This is one place where television shows — especially long-running shows — are superior to movies. A well-drawn character on a television series has a longer “life span” than any movie character can. To approach the life time of a TV character’s life, even for just a single season, requires something like the Harry Potter movies (eight movies amounting to almost 20 hours).
TV Tuesday now takes a slight detour from the public airwaves and shows of our past to consider what’s been happening in the cable TV world. Some of the shows mentioned here deserve their own article, but in this post I’m going to fly over the landscape as quickly as I can manage (those who know me are laughing their ass off about now). If I don’t (at least try), this will be even longer than my usual lengthy longitude.
The problem is that the landscape has gotten huge! Even taking just the “premium” cable channels, such as HBO and Showtime, I find a large selection of shows to mention. In fact, HBO and Showtime each offer so many shows, either one alone offers much territory to explore. With that in mind, the flight won’t be stopping at any one destination very long. We have a very tight schedule today!