With the new TV season just around the corner, I’ll have a number of TV-related postings in the coming weeks, mostly with a historical bent. For now, I thought I’d just jot down a few random things I see and hear on TV these days that either make me laugh, or make me livid.
Dislike: I’ve griped about this before, but the overuse of the word “iconic” in today’s popular culture bothers me to no end. It seems that everyone, from news reporters, to TV documentaries, to reality show hosts, insist on using this adjective for just about everything they deem to be “really good.” Doesn’t anyone know how to use a thesaurus anymore? Please, throw a few synonyms for “iconic” into the mix once in a while. How about “famous,” or “legendary,” or “classic,” or “highly-revered”? Don’t be so lazy, fellow English-speakers! Make an effort! Try another word on occasion! You’re too laconic if you keep using iconic!
Like: Any funny commercial with dogs. From the Subaru family of yellow labs out for their drives, to the Running of the Bulldogs–if done well, these become instant classics.
Dislike: Why is it that when TV parents refer to each other in front of their offspring, they almost invariably say, “What your father is trying to tell you…” or “Your mother thinks we should clean the house” instead of just “What Dad is trying to tell you…” or “Mom thinks we should clean the house”? Is there some fear that viewers might mistake the parents and children as belonging to the same generation? This doesn’t occur only on older shows, it’s still very prevalent today (and yes, even on my beloved Modern Family). Really, writers, just have them say “Mom” and “Dad.”
Like: Ancient Aliens. Don’t laugh. I’ve been a firm believer in the Ancient Alien theory since I was about 14, after seeing the mid-’70s Chariots of the Gods feature documentary in the theatre.
Since then, many discoveries around the world have revealed fascinating evidence of beings from elsewhere in the universe visiting Earth, possibly dating back tens of thousands of years. Ancient Aliens, airing Friday nights on the History Channel, is a well-produced series with gorgeous cinematography, literate and persuasive narration, and a roster of authors/researchers/archeologists who present a compelling case for the theory. Even while offering mind-blowing evidence, the show allows for the kinds of questions a well-meaning skeptic would ask, then presents its argument in support of the theory. It is not interested in presenting a 50/50 balance, nor does it need to. It has a theory to present, and it does so with great conviction. There are those who claim to have debunked the theory, its proponents, and the program itself, but I have no doubts (at some point in the coming months, I’ll write a posting about its compelling cousin series, The Mystery of Oak Island. Ask me about it sometime).
Dislike: Pharmaceutical commercials. Low-hanging fruit, perhaps. But something must have happened, or some legislation must have been passed a few years ago, to allow for the current tsunami of pharmaceutical commercials on television. They seem to comprise almost half of all commercials on the air these days. You know them–the first ten seconds sing the praises of a drug that could improve your life dramatically if you suffer from such-and-such an ailment. The next forty seconds warn you how the drug can cause a myriad of horrifying side-effects, including death (all while running scenes of people living life to the fullest, romping on the beach, or riding on rollercoasters), with the final ten seconds telling us again how wonderful the drug is. It’s enough to make me miss the good old days when we were besieged by a jumble of ads for cars, McDonald’s, Alka-Seltzer, and more cars.
Like: Cat Deeley. You may have never seen So You Think You Can Dance, the summer series dancing competition on Fox. This is not a reality competition that wastes viewers’ time with auditions of hopelessly clumsy dancers who resemble bulls in china shops. These are talented young people (even though I can never match their dances to the storylines they claim to tell through their movement).
As host, Cat Deeley–tall, blonde, and British–has received multiple Emmy-nominations, and has a wonderfully natural and spontaneous chemistry with the judges and competitors, for whom she takes on a big-sister role–celebrating their victories, and consoling them in defeat with a warm embrace. Since the show is produced each summer, she even hosts a July 4th bar-be-que at her home for the dancers and program staff. In an era where nary a word spoken on the air seems truly off-the-cuff, Deeley is refreshingly real and appealing–unless she’s a better actress than Meryl Streep.
The same can be said for Erin Andrews on Dancing with the Stars, a program that has taken its lumps from the critics (and a grumbling portion of the public), but Andrews, as co-host with Tom Bergeron, can hold her own on live TV with a quip or response to an unforeseen on-air glitch. And, being a former contestant herself, she knows what the celebrity dancers are going through during their rigorous rehearsals. Anyone who doesn’t like either of these ladies is no friend of mine.
That’s all I’ve got at the moment. The upcoming television season will provide further opportunities for observations, criticism, and praise in this space, so please visit again! And leave a comment or two!