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

Just Sign Over the Check, Or It's Another Week of Yanni

So I'm watching Smackdown! on UPN -- a fact I mention only to underscore the point that I'm not some "Kill your television" elitist snob who only watches BBC America and can't appreciate the subtle beauty of a well-applied figure-four leg lock -- when a commercial comes on. And man-of-the-people posturing aside, I'll be damned if I'm going to waste two minutes of my life watching advertisers try to reach UPN's core demographic of drooling, easily distracted teenaged boys.

So I start to channel surf. The first stop on our round-the-dial voyage -- PBS.

Sarah Brightman -- the ex-wife of musical-writing halfling Andrew Lloyd Webber and current darling of folks who like their fine arts served in easy-to-swallow doses -- is performing an aria from Puccini. She's in a large billowy dress, and, since she's up on stilts, she's standing some 15 feet in the air. For a moment, I think I've circumnavigated the dial and returned to the pro wrestling just in time to watch the debut of a new character -- MezzoSoprano, who demolishes opponents with a series of clotheslines and a near-lethal high C.

If he's reading, Vince McMahon is free to steal this idea, by the way.

After Brightman stops singing -- or at least, when she reaches a point where only dogs can hear her rendition of Puccini -- the audience claps, Brightman curtsies, as well as someone on stilts can at any rate, and we're back at the San Francisco PBS studios where operators are standing by to take my generous donation to public broadcasting.

Yes, it's another PBS pledge drive.

PBS pledge drives have always had the subtlety of a Mafia shakedown ("Nice programming you have here... shame if something were to happen to it."). I distinctly remember watching Sesame Street as a youngster, only to have it interrupted by PBS pledge breaks. "If you want to keep seeing Big Bird, kids," the smiling PBS bastard would say, "have your parents call and make a pledge right now."

I guess I should be happy they didn't promise to have Big Bird executed on-screen if we didn't come up with enough scratch.

These days, though, PBS has gotten more desperate. Every time a pledge month rolls around, PBS executives head into the deepest, darkest recesses of their headquarters, only to emerge hours later with armloads full of "Three Tenors" and "Yanni: Live at the Acropolis" tapes.

And they will play them until you and I pony up enough money to make the bad noise stop.

Think the Panama invasion. Remember when Manuel Noriega lit out of the presidential palace a hair's breadth in front of the 101st Airborne and holed up in the Vatican Embassy? Our quick-thinking military set up speakers outside the embassy and blasted rock music at all hours of the day until the acne-scarred dictator emerged with his hands up and his eardrums bleeding. Remember?

Well, PBS remembers. And they have enough John Tesh concerts on tape to last well into 2001. So grab those checkbooks. And give 'til it stops hurting.


TeeVee - About Us - Archive - Where We Are Now

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

* * *