We’re not big fans of network television. ABC, CBS, and NBC just make us feel old and irrelevant. FOX has The Simpsons and Family Guy but it also has FOX News and their bevy of babes. Cable stations have their moment. Burn Notice on USA. Breaking Bad and Walking Dead on AMC. Dexter on SHO. Lots of good stuff here and there on HBO. The History Channel has gotten away from real history, but at least it has Pawn Stars and American Pickers. Public broadcasting has worthy albeit pretentious news.
Speaking of news, we never watch the local programming. Why? It either bores or scares us. Why? Because all we hear about are manufactured controversies, high school sports and personal tragedy stories. Why? Apparently, our fellow citizens like that sort of thing. Obviously, we’re out of touch.
Here’s the thing about the scary stuff — we don’t really know what we are supposed to do with the information. There are rarely any actionable items like “if any of you have the ability to go back in time and stop this horrible event, we’re appealing to you now!” At the end of the day, we wonder if it’s just some sort of voyeurism that creates the interest.
Here’s a sampling of what one might hear: “This morning a southbound semi-truck veered into northbound traffic striking a van containing a mother and her three children. The mother was killed instantly and two of her children received severe burns and are in critical condition. Sadly, the youngest child went in and out of consciousness during the Life Flight to St. [insert your local saint's hospital name here] and we’ve just received word that she was pronounced dead upon arrival. The father returned home from work and received the tragic news [cut to neighbor for a quick word on how wonderful the family was and how terrible the tragedy is]. Coming up later, KSUX13 will bring you an exclusive interview with what is surely to be a devastated parent. In other news, tragedy also struck in [insert neighborhood here] as a fire raged through a government subsidized housing complex hospitalizing an elderly man who was not able to make it out before the fire spread to his apartment. The landlord has been cited several times for failing to install fire alarms in the units as well as repair the ladders on the fire escapes. His whereabouts are currently unknown and the local precinct’s captain has indicated that a thorough investigation will be forthcoming. Next, the regional football championship game came down to a nail-biting finale. Who took home the crown? Stick around and we’ll show you game highlights after these messages.”
Sound familiar? Go anywhere in the United States and if you listen long enough those exact stories will show up at some point during the week. The only thing different is that the big cities also have drive-by shootings.
Surely local news programs (spelled incorrectly as programmes in other countries) elsewhere in the world don’t suck as much as ours. We heard that the news in the UK is reported by topless personalities. We know that to be a fact in Canada. We saw as much on an episode of MAD TV years ago. German news is broadcast in German (how weird is that?). From what we remember, Brazilian news is shot on the beaches of Rio and no one really pays attention to the commentators. And we’re going to guess at this one but we suspect that Saudi TV periodically includes public executions.
Non-Americans, what is your local news like?
Anyway, we wonder if the “news” was flipped around in such a way that reporters scurried for good news instead. Clearly, it’s harder to find since tragedies often involve the authorities. The lazy practice of chasing ambulances and cop cars leads to big paydays. Still, we wonder what it would be like if reporters when door-to-door asking people: “So, what kind of good stuff happened to you today?” Here’s a sampling of what we’d like to hear:
“Today in [your neighborhood] a fire broke out in a family kitchen. Fortunately, the parents recently instructed their teenage children on how to put out grease fires. Before the flames could engulf the home, the eldest girl reacted quickly and extinguished the fire. Damage was minimal and all of the family feels grateful.”
“This morning, a toddler wandered away from his mother and walked behind a moving vehicle. The boy was too small for the driver to see, but because he lives in a neighborhood with lots of children, the driver is always vigilant. Fortunately for all, Mr. Jack Sprat backed out slowly enough that the child’s mother was able to call out for him to stop. After the brief scare, Mr. Sprat and the neighbors shared their relief and enjoyed a few moments of smiles and hugs before going their separate ways. The toddler, little Alastair Babaganoosh, says he learned his lesson. When this reporter asked him what he thought about the incident he said ‘Du-du-du-ma-ma-fft. Ma-ma-ma-ma oh-oh. Mmmm. GO-GO-gffft,’ which loosely translates into ‘My mom has warned me about being careful around driveways. Boy did I learn my lesson today. From now on I’ll hang out in my yard and mind her more.’”
“Several months ago, Mr. Grinklefunk of [insert your local street] lost his job at [insert struggling business] recently. However, after spending several weeks looking for work, he found a job today that will adequately tide his family over as he continues to search for long-term employment. ‘In spite my previous set back, I’m optimistic about the future,’ he said. Mrs. Johnson from [your state's] Job Service also noted, ‘Mr. Grinklefunk’s experience shows us that there is legitimate hope and that if you stick to it things will usually work themselves out. For every one person that a really difficult time, there are about 25 Mr. Grinklefunks. That frees up resources to keep working on the ones that struggle the most.’”
“Earlier this morning, Bashar al-Assad finally capitulated and was arrested by the security forces loyal to the opposition. An interim government has taken control and at this point, the transition has been peaceful and orderly.” [OK, this last one is actually fantasy, but hey, everyone needs their dreams.]