Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Twilight Zone

I spent most of last week week in bed, felled by a nasty virus that doctors initially thought might be meningitis, sinusitis, or the rockin’ pneumonia and the boogie-woogie flu. But after a battery of tests, including a spinal tap and cat scan, I was told to ride it out and my massive headache—the kind where I wanted our dog to shoot me—loss of appetite, and overwhelming sense of malaise would pass someday.

Because my head ached so badly, piercing pain behind the eyes and across my forehead, I was unable to read or even remain upright. Most of the time I was just curled in a semi-fetal position on the couch, drool forming on the edge of my mouth, as the dog nipped at my socks.

But I did manage to pass some of the time when I wasn’t asleep or wishing I was dead by watching daytime TV. I never thought American civilization was in such dire straits until I ingested an overdose of afternoon TV. It’s a veritable nightmare.

Almost everything I watched was pure and unentertaining crap. I must admit up front that we don’t have cable, so we rely on a few local stations and several more quirky ones that are pulled in by our HDTV.

One thing I found on the tube is a plethora of judge shows. There was this one guy, I think Judge Alex, who spent most of the show counseling a young woman, who’s already had an army of abusive boyfriends, to make better choices. Uh, duh, no shit, buddy; where’d you get your law degree? The 24-year old female was suing her ex-boyfriend for borrowing her car when they were together, crashing it, and then refusing to pay for any damages.

On Maury Povich, who was actually trained as a real journalist, he did a show about incredibly obese toddlers. Being the father of a toddler, albeit a lean one, I tuned in for a few moments. He featured one three-year-old boy who weighs 114 lbs, which is 80 lbs above normal. Heck, that kid weighs 40 lbs more than Miguel, who is 11. He is only 45 lbs lighter than I am, and I am 50.

Then there was this show hosted by a guy I’d never heard of, Steve Wilko. On it, a woman accused a male relative of either killing her daughter or hiring someone to do so. She was crying and had to be restrained by members of Wilko’s crew as she shouted in a thick Southern accent, “Did you kill my baby? Did you have someone kill my young-un?”

“No,” he said defiantly. “I did not. She was my young-un too.”

I didn’t tune in long enough to ascertain what type of kinship relationship the accused and the dead girl shared.

As I watched these shows and one or two others, I kept thinking two things: one, why would people who may have legitimate legal grievances choose to air their cases in such a tawdry fashion? OK, I know the answer to this one already. And, two, give me Judge Wapner. The original People’s Court was the best. Wapner delivered judgments that were often swift and painful, but occasionally laced with humor and pathos. And he never took bullshit from anyone or doled it out in return. He seemed the real deal; the rest of these bozos are pretenders to a crown they will never wear and to a thrown they will never ascend.

The only daytime show I am sorry I missed was Ellen. I watched the advertisement for her show, but I must’ve been sleeping when it actually came on. Ellen features what she calls her bathroom concert series, in which she sings with a famous crooner in a bathroom or shower. That afternoon she was slated to sing I Kissed A Girl with Katy Perry. Having a chance to hear a great singer, a great comedienne, and their duet with a great song might’ve made my day. And it would’ve been funny.

In the end, the only TV I found comforting during my convalescence was my DVD collection of the 2004 American League baseball championships, when the Red Sox overtook the Yankees after a three-games-to-none deficit and launched the greatest miracle turnaround in playoff baseball history, culminating in Boston’s first World Series title in 86 years. Watching the exciting comeback games when the Red Sox were on the brink and the subsequent World Series celebrations brought many tears to my eyes and maybe, just maybe, helped my ailing body heal a tad faster.

As for most of daytime TV, I will leave the final words to jazz singer and proto-hip-hop artist Gil Scott-Heron: “The revolution will not be televised.”

Thanks goodness.

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