Thursday, July 9, 2015

"Dead Giveaways"

One of the great things about writing a blog is that you answer to nobody.

One of the bad things about writing a blog is that you answer to nobody.

Sure, there’s the readership, and they can make me stop and think. 

But they can’t make me stop.

The final evaluation of my efforts is left primarily in the hands of the person who is perhaps least capable of making an accurate assessment of those efforts.

And that would be me.

Here’s what I’m good at:

Making what I have decided to write about better.  (Hopefully, the best I can possibly make it.  Though I will settle for no booing.)

Here’s what I’m less good at:

Not writing from the perspective of a seventy year-old man.

Because that’s what I am.

And I can do nothing about the consequent thought process..

“Think ‘young’, Earlo.”

I don’t know what that means.  I have but one brain to think with.  And, like my 23 year-old Lexus,

It’s got miles on it.

And those miles make a difference.

(Sorry for writing so many short lines.  It means more scrolling.  Consider it a “blog poem.”  That doesn’t rhyme.  Or scan.  Or have any other characteristics of a poem. Aside from the short lines.)

I had an idea for what I was going to write about today.  But something bothered me about the tone.  The underlying… not intention… the underlying… I don’t know, the way it would inevitably come out.

The way it would inevitably come out…

… was curmudgeonly.    

I could envision the post’s set-up.  Starting with the standard shielding disclaimer:

“I know that times change.  But…”

“Every era brings something different to the party.  But…”

“Call me a grumpy old sourpuss.  But…”

All of them, literary variations, implying…

“Yesterday was better.”

Which may simply be a euphemism for…

“I preferred it when I was younger.”

Now, where was I going with this?

(Which is another “dead giveaway”.  You lose track of where you were going.)

Oh, yeah.  Now I remember. 

(Meaning I’m seventy, but I am not… really old.)

I was reading an article in the New York Times (Sunday) Magazine.  They were talking about Comedy Central and how the network is positioning itself for the technological future, a time where “linear” viewing – watching TV shows when they are actually on the air – is supplanted by – as Captain Kirk might have put it – beaming it directly up to your eyes.  Wherever and whenever.  Which, though a less than accurate description, is more accurate than looking in TV Guide and turning to the channel.

What struck me most about the Times article was the proliferation on Comedy Central – it appears to be almost their mission statement mantra – of niche comedy.  Meaning, “We don’t care if everybody watches.  We are programming for the passionate… whatever the opposite of “the mainstream” is.

In my day – another “dead giveaway” descriptive – comedy used to be like a department store – broad in its available offerings, but not deep. 

Today’s comedy is all – another “dead giveaway”, in its egregious generalization – today’s comedy is not “all”, it is substantially – “narrow-com” – racial, political, satirical, vagino-centric…

One Comedy Central series, Key & Peele stars two performers who are half black and half white.  Knowing Comedy Central, my suspicion is they are less interested in attracting both races than in a fervently loyal bi-racial audience.

Okay, so here comes the thing.  (That exposes me for who I am.)

Starting with the disclaimer in the other direction.  (Because I am nothing if not even-handed.)

I have watched some of these comedy shows, and enjoyed much of the sampling, (Though I was never compelled to a return visit.  Partly because I can never remember when the shows I had enjoyed are on.  But only partly.)

Are you ready for the curmudgeonly punchline?  (As if you did not already know it, which is yet another “dead giveaway” – yawning predictability):

I miss the comedy that was for everybody.  (I realize “everybody” is an exaggeration, The comedy of the past was never for “everybody.”   But it was considerably closer to “for everybody” than the comedy is today.)

Why do I miss that?

What just flew into my mind was an image of me, riding on the subway.  And I’m looking around, and I see the other passengers – sitting, standing, backs leaning against the door – all of them chuckling quietly to themselves.  And I am imagining – the possibility at least – that they are all remembering something funny they had seen on television the night before.  (Arguably, with its forty-million-plus audience, a distinct possibility during The Cosby Show era.)

That is not happening anymore.  (And will, predictably, never happen again.)

It’s a different business model.  Where you can rake in the money programming for specifically targeted audiences. 

It is successful.

But it is terminally divisive. 

I liked it better when we all laughed at the same stuff.  (Fear of flying.  Bureaucratic incompetence.  Relationship anxieties.)

But what can I tell you?

I’m seventy.


Anonymous said...

I can't find anywhere that Earl mentioned this but he did a podcast on just thought all his regular readers might be interested. I am just downloading it now myself but pretty sure it is our lovable Earl.

FFS said...

I think I missed a memo.

I discovered this blog earlier this year and have become a daily reader. I feel like Earl is talking to me. Must be something about similar age, city of birth (I’m still here), UofT in the sixties and being in London in 1966-67.

One thing that I find curious is that most posts generate no comments, yet I find them comment worthy. My insights and comments have always been great but aren’t fully formed until a day or two later and then what is the point?

Last week for my summer reading pleasure I started at the first entry in January 2008 and have now read the first 100 posts.

Back to missing the memo.

I was surprised by the number of comments that appeared in response to almost all of the first 100 posts.

Why, and when, did the comments stop? Did people run out of enthusiasm? Has it all been said? Are they dead – it has been 7 years.

When I continue reading past 100 will the reason be revealed?

If so, don’t spoil it for me – let me find out.

Frank said...

Good news, seventy is the new fifty!