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For The Love of God, Ko, Put Down That Scalpel!

Back when I was a wee little shaver prowling the dark alleys of suburban Fremont, my mother gave me two bits of advice. The first was, never get thrown out at third to lead off the inning--which, frankly, struck me as a little odd, since mom also preached taking the extra base. The second was, don't believe everything you see on TV. At the time I thought she meant Jack Lord's hair, since the point always seemed to come up during Hawaii Five-O. But now that I'm a weary 26-year old, wise in the ways of the world and able to understand all the jokes on Ally McBeal, I see where she was coming from.

The impetus for my epiphany, if you will, was a recent episode of Michael Hayes, starring fiery red-headed method actor David Caruso as the eponymous U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. In this particular installment, our protagonist was faced with yet another of those legal peccadillos that always seems to preoccupy the nation's chief law enforcement officers. A young Irish militant nutcase on his deathbed had made a confession to his priest (taped, unbeknownst to him, by those devious feds) that incriminated an older Irish militant nutcase in a recent bombing of upper Manhattan.

The predicament that occupied Herr Hayes for the better part of the hour: getting the tape admitted into court against the older nutcase, what with that pesky Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. A taut hour of brilliant tactical thrusts and parries as the nation's finest legal minds go toe-to-toe once again on the constitutional battlefield? An incisive deconstruction of search and seizure law? A captivating exposition on the price of living in a free society?

Only in TV's fantasyland. Because, you see, in the real world the older nutcase doesn't have standing to challenge a violation of the younger nutcase's Fourth Amendment rights. End of predicament, tape is admitted, fade to black.

I don't have to tell you that Señor Caruso & Co.'s obvious ignorance of the finer points of constitutional criminal procedure came as a sobering blow. Oh sure, at first I danced a jig. Take that, Bryant Gumbel, I thought, you officious, four-eyed, fast-yapping "people stock" trader. You and your pals can take your "power of the medium" gibberish and shove it where the sun don't shine. The fact is, you aren't nearly as clever as you'd like to think. Besides which, we all know you're reading from a teleprompter.

But then it hit me: All I know is the law--and precious little of it at that. What about all the other stuff that I'm completely unschooled in? Is it possible that so much of what I know about the world, gleaned from countless hours sitting in front of that pretty black box with the funny pictures, is actually utter bunk?

Needless to say, I began to feel more than a little queasy.

Take medicine. Until now I'd always figured that, in a pinch, I could pull off an emergency tracheotomy. How hard could it be? I've watched a few episodes of ER. Bark out a few commands, grab an X-acto, dig a hole in the larynx, stick a tube in. Nothing to it. But now, with my frame of reference all topsy turvy, I must admit: I'm having a few doubts. Those rapid fire commands, for instance. Do they really mean anything? I mean, not to destroy anyone's illusions, but ever notice that you can get much the same effect by playing a fast game of Battleship? "C-five, E-four, B-two, let's get the destroyer, whoa you sunk my battleship!" Hell, for all we know, these people have suckered 32 million Americans into gluing their tails to the couch every week to watch a really elaborate game of Operation.

Then there's lifeguarding. I'm not ashamed to admit it: Everything I know about lifeguards I learned from David Hasselhoff. The rescue can, CPR, how to suck in my gut while hordes of drunk, screaming Germans worship my lip-synching ass. When push came to shove, I always figured I could make that bowlegged lifeguard run, dive into the Pacific, and pull out some sputtering lass who, as it turned out, would be Miss February 1993. At which point, of course, we'd begin a brief, yet passionate affair interspersed periodically with sultry musical vignettes set to the dulcet tones of megababe lounge singer Amy Grant. But now--now I'm wondering if my sputtering lass will turn out to be Audra Lindley!

(Oops... a glance at the morning paper tells me that won't be happening anytime soon, as TV's Mrs. Roper has apparently died. Oh well, easy come, easy go.)

The possible deceptions are endless. Buffy and the gang would have us believe it takes a wooden stake to the heart to slay vampires. A fine mess that'll put us in the next time we stumble across these cretins if in fact we're supposed to, say, stare at them cross-eyed. Thanks to NYPD Blue, there may come a day when I meet a New York City police detective and utter a linguistically unsound salutation like, "There's appreciation." This will no doubt frighten and confuse the poor gumshoe until he beats me into a confession. Because of The Real World, thousands of young high schoolers probably think they'll go to college and end up living with six blithering asses when, in fact, the odds are they'll only live with one. And to this day, I can still remember the first time I saw a black man off my TV and thought, "But James doesn't have a mohawk...."

Damn if the politicians weren't right again. TV is an insidious little mind-bender. I just never realized how so. I mean, if I--a reasonably educated yutz with degrees up the ying yang--could be deluded into thinking I could perform fairly invasive surgery, there's no telling what fantastic thoughts are percolating in the mind of some horribly misguided young'un. Maybe he fancies a world where the FBI really does hire ex-cons. Or maybe she labors under the impression that being a lesbian means she has to play every single, cotton pickin' aspect of her lesbianism for yuks.

Or maybe, just maybe, he's awaiting the day when he can become a chain-smoking TV producer and rewrite the Fourth Amendment to his heart's content.


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