Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Boob Tube

If you’ve ever wondered whether the money you spend on cable TV is worth it, I’m here to tell you yes, yes it is. Over on the broadcast network side, which is what cheapskates live Dave and I are reduced to watching, things get particularly ugly during the summer.

So many “talent” shows abound, I can’t believe there’s a yodeler left in America who hasn’t embarrassed him or herself before a panel of D-list judges. And if it’s not Regis threatening us with a “singing” performance by David Hasselhoff, it’s a CSI/Without a Trace/Law & Order rerun offering tips on how to murder someone in a really unique and disgusting, but ultimately detectable, way.

Last night, we inexplicably became engrossed in an episode of “Medical Mysteries” on ABC. Among the featured cases: a family in Mexico stricken by a mutant gene that causes uncontrollable hair growth. The resulting syndrome has an actual scientific name, but “Werewolf-itis” suffices as a description. There is no treatment—short of daily waxing. Ironically, researchers interviewed for the program said that if they can figure out why the hair won’t stop growing, this might also lead them to a cure for baldness. Thank heavens! All I have to say is that if at some point a prescription drug becomes available to treat baldness, and insurance companies actually cover this vanity pill, I want Botox injections covered for women.

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Enough with the Mel Gibson DUI arrest. The women from “The View” have weighed in with their opinions and really that should be the last word. Remember the summer of the shark attack? No? Let me refresh. News in August 2001 was so slow, shark attacks were the talk of the country. Gotta feed that 24/7 media beast. Turns out we should have been paying a little less attention to Jaws and a whole lot more to Al Qaeda. Now that media outlets have spilled an oceanful of ink over Gibson, I wonder what we’re ignoring this time around.

Oh, right, the Defense Department’s budget. Luckily, the New Yorker never takes its eye off the prize. In his weekly “Financial Page” column, James Surowiecki writes: “More than half the federal government’s discretionary spending goes to the military, and, while a sizable chunk goes toward the fight against terrorism and the Iraq war, too much has nothing to do with the demands of a post-9/11 world.” Wait, there’s more. Read the rest at

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At this point, the commercials have actually become more intriguing than the programs they interrupt. My personal favorites:

A pitch for PlumSmart juice from Sunsweet. Nice try. This is nothing but prune juice, gussied up with a new name and prettier labeling. I’m not that dumb.

ComEd. Where to begin. Our friendly neighborhood utility has been bombarding the airwaves with no fewer than three separate ads. All of which have nothing to do with how much the company cares about its customers and everything to do with lulling us into believing they are completely justified in jacking up our rates. They’ve even devised a goddawful clunky acronym just to spell out CARE—Customer’s Affordable Reliable Energy—and have set up a web site designed to shift the blame when people can’t afford to heat their homes next winter. ComEd would like us to know that they don’t own the electricity, they just provide it, and they are being forced at gunpoint to charge us more for the commodity because they are having the screws put to them by the electricity makers. Or some such bullshit. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard this before. I believe from Enron.

This would all seem less insidious had we not just suffered through an excessive heat wave with nary a power outage. Coincidence? I think not. People, do not fall for this act. ComEd is not our friend, the CEO is not our kindly uncle. They don’t want our respect, they want our money. We can’t stop them from taking the latter, but we can refuse to give them the former.


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