Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Dumbing of America

The other day I picked up the TV Guide Fall Preview. The Fall Preview had always been a bit a tradition while growing up and I hadn't read the TV Guide in ages. Since I'm at home now and have a bit of an open schedule where TV viewing is concerned I thought I would use this as an opportunity to familiarize myself with the new fall offerings. I was aware that TV Guide had changed their format from the little reader's digest sized booklet to more of a regular glossy mag format, but I didn't have a true sense of the content revisions until I started reading my issue. Used to be that the TV Guide would have every single hour, for almost all of your broadcast and basic cable tv stations (plus HBO, Cinemax, Showtime and The Movie Channel-- which, by the way, no one ever had a subscription to) for an entire week. To my surprise, this is no longer. No, instead TV Guide now only focuses on primetime (from 8-11) each night of the week and then at the back of the mag there is a single page of "Daytime" (being 12pm-7:30pm) and "Late Evening"/"Early Morning" for your most basic of basic cable services (the bulk of which is shown as "Various Programming" and even more helpful, at 11:30pm on TBS you can watch "Movie", "Movie" also appears on Oxygen and FX at midnight). We're not actually going to tell you what movie is on, we'll let it be a surprise. Oh, and if you actually want to watch local programming after 11pm? Good luck. Planning to watch something after 4:30am but before 12noon? According to TV Guide you should either be asleep or at work, or let's just make everything simple and assume everyone is watching that new 4 hour long Today Show.

All I could think of is, why the hell is this thing still published and who buys it? Clearly the TV Guide people assume everyone has access to the TV Guide Channel and some sort of a cable "Guide" and the whole "TV Guide" has become a superfluous waste of paper useful mainly as a coaster.

Now, to be fair, the TV Guide does still provide some insightful info. The last page of the magazine (before the ever important horoscope and crossword) is a listing of "Late Night Movies" on 6 randomly chosen movie channels. Someone at TV Guide must be staying up nights to write the descriptions of these movies. For instance:

"Indepndc. Day": Aliens attack earth -- Okay, I know that technically this is an accurate description, but come on. I think it was a bit more than that.

"The Island": Cloistered Clones escape -- escape what, exactly? Couldn't we have a bit more info?

"Annapolis": A Man joins the Navy -- like he just walked into a recruitment station and said sign me up!

"Get on the Bus": Blacks go to Washington, DC -- A little vague, no?

"Cousins": Relatives have an affair -- Sunrise at Campobello, or Ted Danson, take your pick.

"Glory": Story of black soldiers -- What war, please?

"World Trade Center": Two cops are trapped -- again, while this is a portion of the plot, aren't we missing the bigger picture?

Yet other films, seemingly clear on their content get detailed explanations:

"Midnight Express": Drug Smuggler's ordeal in a Turkish Prison
"Bats" A Texas town is attacked by a swarm of bats.
"The Firm": A Thriller about a lawyer who discovers that his employers are controlled by the mob.

So The Firm practically gets a novella for a description and The Island gets cloistered clones escape. All I can think of is whoever is drafting these summaries must be trying to get themselves into the Crossword business.

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