Thursday, July 15, 2004

boob tube

There's usually only one reason I turn on the TV, and that's Futurama. In recent weeks, I haven't even been watching that, so it is to my chagrin that tonight I sat down with my microwaved lasagna and watched three straight hours of VH1's I Love The 90s.

The 80s version was fun, but a little over my head, at least until they got to about 87 or so. The 90s had the honor of welcoming me into my social consciousness, and it is with great pride that I can say I remember almost every hyper documented fad/movie/band/tv show represented on ILT90s. I grew up on this stuff, man. Ren and Stimpy, The X Files, Boyz II Men.

The inclusion of Ren and Stimpy in the lineup does mean that I can reference Futurama; the always-great Billy West makes an appearance and...well, is hilarious. Note to Jerry: you can catch your 30 second fix of Kyan Douglas in 1994 AND 95, bonus conversation about Prince Alberts included.

I have a major girly crush on Michael Ian Black. I can't fathom it: he's mildly annoying and predictably sarcastic. Still, kinda cute.

Anyway, the point of this post is not to wax nostalgic about the recently departed decade of my adolescence, but to wax philosophical about the phenomenon of "pop culture documentaries" like ILT90s and its ilk.

VH1 is especially guilty of flashy, highly caffeninated collages, glossy representations of our inclusive American consciousness. Nothing the commentators say is ever particularly enlightening or insightful but then again, I'm not saying they necessarily give you anything to think about. Waterworld was a conundrum, to be sure, but it didn't change my life in any degree.

It is impressive that I managed to stomach three hours of the show, as the method the producers use of giving you only three seconds or so of the footage in question, followed by a logo or dancing cell phone superimposed over the commentators' goofy reenactment, makes me vaguely homicidal. My brain goes slow, my eyes go slow, I need to see these things slowly to know what's going on. Sure, Michael Bolton is telling me these are the hotties of 93, but you can't hold the picture still long enough for me to even figure out what color her hair is (thank the goddess he got a haircut, by the way). I know this technique has been calibrated to the attention spans of the average VH1 audience, but it drives me nuts.

This is standard issue for the youth channels, which is why I find myself drawn more and more to less hectic episodes of Sunday Night Sex Show. And more and more I turn the TV off for longer and longer. It's getting too easy to see all the tricks they use to keep you watching, keep you tuned in and brainless. Don't forget to buy a CD tomorrow, and wash your floors with Swiffer. Here's some more flashy colorful effects to keep you entertained inbetween commercials.

Removed as I am from my mentally stimulating college environment, where we never had cable and every night was an adventure, I must adapt to my new surroundings. My coworkers are, on average, between the ages of 16 and 21, smoke a lot of dope, study things like marketing and political science, and, while pleasant, do not have the broadest worldview. I am in the need of companionship, and in order to keep up with Joneses some sacrifices are in order. I don't get to rage on about the current state of political affairs nearly as much as is healthy for me, and must instead watch my tongue and discuss the Switchfoot album. Which I have not heard, and could care less about. No one knows who Ani Difranco is and when I mention attending the March for Women's Lives their eyes glaze over and they say, "oh, that's cool."

[Disclaimer: this does not apply to Heidi or most of the people at HCW. I'm a little bitter at Frogs and co. at the moment]

So, it's three hours of teenage nostalgia for with a bonus half hour of Johnny Depp trivia for good luck (that last not being so painful). Which is not to say I didn't enjoy the ride- more I am lamenting the factors that have led me to watch television in the first place. TV makes my brain hurt- which I assume must be the feeling it suffers just before it asphyxiates from lack of intelligent content.