Kill Your TV: No Oops, I Really Mean it this Time

The first Monday of the New Year started like any other in America-full of cliche, celebrity, weather with Al and this:

It was--it was like late--it was real early Saturday morning, we was--we was just chillin' at the room and, you know, we're in Las Vegas, and we were sitting in the room, let's go do something, you know. Let's go--let's go get married.

Our mind space invaded by ABC's Good Morning America and CBS's Early Show millionaire hosts revealed the eloquently-challenged 55-hour groom of Britney Spears, one Jason Allen Alexander, who purportedly now is shopping around for the right Hollywood agent. No word yet on what the administration at Southeastern Louisiana University has to say about enrolled student Jason's command of the English language. Maybe they was still chillin' with the news.

Not to be outdone, perky Katie Couric (she hates that description) of The Today Show had this to say to America as we prepared to send the kids off to school and drank our mourning, er, morning coffee:

Katie Couric: Well, if you thought it wouldn't last, you were right. Britney Spears got hitched this weekend to a childhood friend at a Las Vegas wedding chapel, but the groom is already back home without the bride. NBC's Natalie Allen is in the couple's hometown of Kentwood, Louisiana. Natalie, good morning.

Natalie Allen: Good morning to you, Katie. Yes, the honeymoon is over. The groom arrived back here in Kentwood yesterday. His marriage to a pop star princess apparently will not have a fairy tale ending.

Katie probably charged about $10,000 in salary for that exchange.

Lucky for us, now addicted to all Britney, all the time, we got this from Matt Lauer, who one-upped his Today Show co-host with this reportage the next morning:

Oops, we're doing it again. Unless you've been hanging out in a cave, you probably know by now that Britney Spears got hitched this weekend in a quickie Las Vegas wedding. And just as quickly, she got the marriage annulled. So, just who is Britney's ex? Well, Access Hollywood's Billy Bush went to Britney's hometown of Kentwood, Louisiana, for an exclusive interview with Jason Allen Alexander.

Thank you, Matt and Billy. In fact, that cave is sounding fine to me. 2004 broadcast television is getting off to its routine self, full of gossip, trivial pursuit data, and news that you can throw away.

According to the media buying service Gaskell Media, "The good news keeps on coming for the broadcast television networks. Record setting upfronts brought in $9.3 billion for the 2003-2004 season, and there is every indication that next year will be even more profitable. Advertiser demand will be at an all time high with the 2004 elections and NBC's coverage of the Summer Olympics in Athens. Despite cable's recent success in attracting viewers from network TV, only broadcast television can deliver a mass audience."

Aldous Huxley predicted our future when he wrote in 1958:

A society, most of whose members spend a great part of their time, not on the spot, not here and now and in the calculable future, but somewhere else, in the irrelevant worlds of sport and soap opera, of mythology and metaphysical fantasy, will find it hard to resist the encroachments of those who manipulate and control it.

Good morning, Katie.

Good afternoon, Oprah.

Good evening, Geraldo.

Good night, Jay.

Unlike some of my recovering TV-addicted friends, I do indulge in TV, and admit to occasionally chillin' with Oprah. However, I do harbor thoughts of telecide and have imagined throwing my TV out of my second floor window. My excuse is that I'm a media professor and am required to keep up with current events. Nevertheless, I'm mad about this latest lowest-common denominator offering and the BIG LIE that broadcasters keep throwing at us with their "we're just giving the public what it wants" freedom cover. That's just what they say in public gatherings to wrench themselves of any responsibility for Britney, Michael, and Laci wall-to-wall coverage. Behind the scenes and in advertising revenue reports they speak in different tongues: entertainment is king, pulp is profit, quality be damned if it affects the bottom line.

Perhaps we should borrow a page from ACT-UP, whose memorable slogan for the AIDS crisis, silence = death, was united with a shaming campaign at public gatherings. The next time you hear a broadcast executive try to explain the decline in broadcast news with a people's choice lament, stand up, point your finger (something other than the middle, unless you are ambitious) and say, "Shame on you." And while you are it, ask why the three major U.S. television networks' evening news broadcasts devoted just 39 minutes to AIDS news coverage in 2003 when the disease killed more than 3 million people, 2 million in Africa alone.

I wouldn't hold my breath for Entertainment Tonight to cover that story either, unless Britney has something to say about those poor suffering people in the world.

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