We watch... so you don't have to.

And Now... Nothing!

I have seen the five-hundred-channel future, and it consists of your vacation videos.

I'm extrapolating here, you understand, based on the current state of TV, with its paltry fifty channels. Given the fact that there's nothing on now, the people who crank out those additional four hundred and fifty channels are going to end up marching door-to-door, confiscating anything you have on tape, just to fill the air time. You'd, ah, better burn those unlabeled videos of you and the missus experimenting with the tripod while you still have a chance.

The nightly local news, for example, is a consistent exercise in showing nothing whatsoever. For every tiny, pathetic local story, there is a tiny, pathetic local reporter standing on a cold and lonely street corner at 11:04 pm with nothing to show but the very spot where something interesting happened fifteen hours before.

In one recent example, a reporter was forced to admit on air -- direct quote here -- "As you can see behind me, the scene's been cleared." The dramatically clear scene was then re-shown in a taped segment, as a backdrop for an interviewee who described what had been there before the cameras arrived.

For those of you keeping score at home: an in-studio anchor introduced a on-the-scene reporter who lead into a taped interview with a witness giving a verbal description. All in full color. Oysters go to less trouble to wrap up a grain of sand.

But the fact that no news is news isn't news. At least as the number of channels increases, local news reporters will be able to refer to other reporters wandering around in the background as proof that something did actually occur at some point in the past where they happen to be standing. What's troubling is that the taped shows don't have anything to offer either.

On one recent installment of Hard Copy that I accidentally -- really, I swear -- stumbled across, five full minutes were devoted to security camera footage of a grocery store cashier ringing up the purchases of her relatives at far below retail. "Ten cents," the tracking computer droned over grainy, black and white footage, "ten cents." While the Hard Copy reporter's narration had the low-key authority the viewing public has come to expect from the show -- "In fact, she rang up over sixty dollars worth of groceries for four bucks!" -- nowhere did he actually bother mention that the footage we were examining like some latter-day Zapruder film was from 1989.

You heard me right. Nineteen eighty-nine. Eight years ago.

The only way you could tell that the video was slightly younger than the Bush Administration was the fact that there was a murky time-stamp in the lower left-hand corner of the frame. The reporter never mentioned that this heinous crime would be old enough to shoplift for itself by now.

And while Hard Copy has even fewer journalistic scruples than the local news -- if that is, in fact, possible -- it can normally be expected to reveal the steamier side of the current decade. That the muckrakers have drained the swamp and are left to forage for nuggets of scandal in backwater five-and-dimes can't be a good sign.

And, of course, that Ken Burns guy didn't use any new footage in his Civil War documentary.

So hide your tape library: America's Most Laughable Vacation Videos premieres next week, and they've got half an hour to fill.


TeeVee - About Us - Archive - Where We Are Now

Got a comment? Mail us at teevee@teevee.org.

* * *