Sunday, November 28, 1999

We've got to have friends, but do we need all this TV?




BY PAUL DAUGHERTY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The 13-year-old Kid Down the Hall is watching yet another rerun of the TV show Friends. Friends is a show that takes the notion of mindlessness, sits it on a big, leather couch and offers it a martini. It is the dumbest, most self-absorbed program I've ever seen, mainly because it doesn't realize how dumb and self-absorbed it really is.

        On Friends, if the characters aren't talking about sex, they're mute. How many references to sex can they cram into one Friends episode? Why do they bother calling it “Friends?” Why don't they just call it “Horny, Hormonally Charged Young Slackers With Nothing Better To Do Than Talk About Sex?”

        Sex, sex, sex.

        Naturally, the 13-year-old loves it.

        There are lots of signs I'm getting old. One is when servers, barkeeps and the occasional 20-something female refer to me as “Sir.” Another is when I can remember Three Dog Night's first hit song, but not where I put my car keys.

        (Soon, I'll be like my dad in Florida, who remembers his keys, but forgets his car.)

        Another sign of aging is looking at the TV and opening my mouth, either in amazement or boredom, generally the latter. Every show seems to revolve around sex. Who's having it, who's not, who wants to, with whom and will it ever happen?

        Please.

        Hey, kids:

        It's not that great.

        OK. Let me restate that. It is great. I mean, it can be. Between two consenting adults. Who love each other. Who are safe and responsible. You've heard the lecture.

        But really. Do we need to talk about it every waking minute? Watching a show called Get Real with a 13-year-old is like reading the bathroom walls at a bad night club. When it's over, I hose down the screen. Get real, indeed. Go read a book or something. Take a cold shower, for goodness sake.

        It wouldn't be so bad if TV were just something we use, like an automobile or a carpet sweeper. It's not. It's who we are.

        Kids spend more than five hours a day with “media.” I can tell you firsthand: It ain't newspapers. It's CDs and PCs. Rap rhythm and chat rooms. Mostly, it's TV.

        TV doesn't represent life.

        TV is life.

        Truth: Do you have more paintings in your house? Or TVs? More books of poetry? Or TVs? More musical instruments? Or TVs?

        Seeing is believing. Only what I'm seeing on TV, I'm not believing.

        The only show more hazardous to your mental health is Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. I know who. Anyone with an IQ higher than an armrest.

        I love the first several questions the millionaire-hopefuls get: What body part is the Headless Horseman missing? To what great metropolis does the song “New York, New York” refer?

        To reach $1,000 requires only that you be a warm-blooded member of the two-legged animal kingdom. The other night, a guy claiming to be an Ivy League graduate couldn't decide who was the Patron Saint of Lost Causes. What a moron. Everybody knows it's Mike Brown.

        But I digress. The nightly sex-o-rama shows are shallow and mindless, because lots of them are written by 20-somethings, who are shallow and mindless. From what I can tell, nobody on the Warner Brothers Network is older than about 23, and they all play characters who are 17. If you work in Hollywood now and think you might like to write TV shows, you better not list that M*A*S*H credit on your resume.

        If, however, you have the life-depth of a teaspoon, and thus can appeal to the teen-age “demographic,” come on down.

        If you're a teen-age actor, all the better. “(Talent) agencies don't want to sign anyone over 22,” a partner at something called Endeavor Agency told the New York Times. “There are young actors who were complete unknowns two years ago, who are making $3 million a year today.”

        So TV slums it, worse than ever. Perhaps the WB will create a new show: Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and Have Sex?

        Think of those ratings.

        Paul Daugherty welcomes your comments at 768-8454.