We worried that television would ruin our culture. Our love/hate relationship with the medium has taken some queer twists and turns over the decades. By 1949 there were nearly one hundred TV stations in the United States. In 1951 I Love Lucy went on the air and the deal was sealed.
The movie industry worried that television, an "inferior" entertainment form, would spell doom for their business, just as radio had once fretted over motion pictures and newspapers had feared radio.
In fact, most historians agree that Walter Cronkite hastened the end of the Viet Nam war by merely telling us the truth on network television. Crusty, old Ed Sullivan brought us, first, Elvis and then, less than ten years later, the Beatles, to insure that rock'n'roll would change our culture and everyone else's, too.
When SpongeBob SquarePants upstaged Maroon 5, while five million bucks worth of fireworks couldn't stifle the yawns, television documented some kind of end of rock'n'roll, too, at last night's Super Bowl. I would be a lot more broken up about making any such statement if the poor old thing hadn't been on life support for so long. You do remember 50% of The Who boring us all to death a few years back, don't you.
As a consumer raised on television, movies, radio and newspapers; as a charter devotee of rock'n'roll, I feel qualified to put forth the notion that scale has greatly diminished all of them. I honestly don't know whether to feel sorry for a kid who will pay big money to see a skinny seventy-five year old hop around on a gigantic stage, surrounded by other aging millionaires, one hundred and two rows away, or share his excitement over his witnessing some form of history.
"How do you even know that it was Mick?"
"I could see him on the giant screen behind them!"
Well, now television is no longer limited to three networks. As I suddenly find myself working to catch up on the first season of Sex Education on Netflix, I see signs of change that even I might embrace. Keep in mind that this is a show that is meant for viewers fifty years younger than I am. It just happens to resonate personally for many reasons.
What's next? NFL? NASCAR? Be afraid, Simon & Schuster, Warner Brothers, Paramount, WWE-
be very afraid.
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