Some people spend more time on their couch than the pillows do. Prime Time means resting their post-work laurels with a bowl of Sodium Crunchies in their lap and soaking up some quality alpha waves from the big blue eye. These faithful followers wield grease-stained remote ray guns and fire off attention-deficit blasts of infrared Nielsen radiation.
Admittedly I march lock stock in alignment with this army's tactics, but to the step of a slightly different snare. Crime dramas, gay fashion humor, stripping cartoons? next. Reality shows, cooking "personalities," victims of forcible remodeling? next. I don't love Raymond and I mustn't see NBC's Thursday night lineup.
What sells me widgets is the news, brother! Step right up and stare at the sideshow for only two bits! Drink down a minty truth elixir bottled by boisterous personalities whose heads talk atop an endless treadmill of fast facts. Cable news networks, Internet sites and talk radio hosts have dabbled in alchemy and spun the news into entertainment in honor of our golden age of information access.
Sterilize the rubber-coated spoon and feed me those pureed peas mommy ?cause I'm hungry. The airplane comes in for a landing? the choo-choo train goes in the tunnel? good boy! Num-num.
I'm dizzy in the "No Spin Zone" folks. I'm getting the brush back from "Hardball" and it's a full count. My news personality prescription makes El Rushbo's back-the-truck-up and down-the-hatch pill breathing look like a Flintstone's vitamin during kindergarten snack time.
I watch Imus on MSNBC in the morning when I'm getting ready for work. No perky bubble-headed Couric for me. Then the radio in my car goes Imus, Boortz, Beck, O'Reilly and the Kimmer (maybe some Clark Howard) while I'm driving around. Does my stereo even have an FM band?
Drudge Report in the office and Newsweek during my lunch hour. After work the cable talkers are Matthews, O'Reilly (again) and maybe Hannity and Colmes unless they have Bill Bennett or Oliver North on. Driving at night I leave a trail of ha-ha behind courtesy of Phil Hendrie.
Sleep, wake and repeat: news, news and more news. Can you blame me for not reading this paper? I'm busy!
All week long it's the news presented in an entertaining way. What happens on the weekend? How do I even make it back to Monday alive? HBO now delivers a beautiful concept show to my home every Sunday night called "K Street." It's entertainment presented in a newsy way: entermation!
Featuring real politicians and beltway insiders who play themselves mixed seamlessly with actors filling in the show's fiction makes this documentary-like vision unravel week to week with the current events. Imagine "The West Wing" for grown-ups sans the dopey pass-the-cheese and whine melodrama. Also remove any actors who play the president but then get confused and think that they're the real president, and record PSA's voicing their oh-so-educated opinions on the Middle East.
Boil it down to content. Americans are growing increasingly weary of woeful "Friends" clones and unreality shows, so news programs are pumping up their presentation and drawing bored viewers as a result. What does this do to the quality of news? If you glean from one source every day and expect to be well informed you'll always be in the dark. Period. This has always been the case with print, radio and television journalism.
Cable and radio talking heads give news commentary?get it? Liberals blast the Fox News Channel and Bill O'Reilly for being slanted. Bull's-eye skipper! Move to the front row and collect your gold star! It's an opinion show. The distinction between that and which stories make the front page of The New York Times is that Bill O'Reilly tells you upfront what he thinks.
In summation: news is now entertainment so get it from more than one source, sitcoms are lame, newsy fiction is hot, Martin Sheen should stick to acting and after the season finale of "K Street" on Sunday my weekends will all but completely lack news?straight, opinionated or fabricated.
Rob Felt is the photographer for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.