Friday, November 28, 2008

Pushing Daisies Thanatopsis

I cannot let the passing of Pushing Daisies go without comment. This is one of the most original shows to come to television in a long time, by which I mean that they reached all the way into the first half of the last century for their ideas instead of just recycling old shows that we all remember, and that weren't that good the first time. Not only were the story lines and dialog complex, original and entertaining, but the show had tremendous visual appeal.

What is it about us as a society that leads us to turn our backs on original, intelligent work in favor of predictable humor or a seemingly endless series of second-rate crime/medical dramas? It is much harder for me to bemoan the way that television executives treat us as if we are mindless sheep when we continue to act like mindless sheep. I mean, how many CSI's do we need?

Of course, we the viewers are not alone in our culpability. I don't see a huge push from any of the networks to promote any of the more original work until after it becomes a phenomenon like Lost. I don't recall seeing the Good Morning America team discussing the plot of Pushing Daisies or Eli Stone on the morning after, like they do with Dancing with the People Whose Names You May Have Heard or American Star Machine. Then again, Diane, Robin and the rest are just giving us what will get them ratings.

I know, it's just a television show. But in addition to the fact that I get 70% of my information and 85% of my imagined human interaction from TV, television is what passes for culture in our country today, and we spend our breaks and lunch hours talking about Meredith and McDreamy or what's up with the Desperate Housewives. TV has real impact on our lives, at least until you kids take over with your Interwebs and your iPods and such.

In the end, I suppose the forces at work are much like those that helped disappear everyone's 401k in these last few months. Everyone is so interested in short term gain that long term goals are forgotten or ignored. I'm afraid we are in for a crisis of culture someday soon, if we are not already in its depths. And I don't see the government coming up with a trillion dollars to bail out PBS. They haven't even done anything to get the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans reopened.

If you think art and music are unimportant, and you're not worried about disappearing art, music and drama programs in schools, then the passing of higher culture is no need for concern. But if you believe, as I do, that our appreciation of art and music build our capacity to understand and appreciate mathematics, science and the more mundane aspects of life, then you should be afraid.

Oh, and Sarah is right about another thing: Grey's Anatomy has gone seriously off the rails. I don't know if they are chasing the ratings like everyone else or what, but I may have watched my last episode.

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