I hate television. I despise it. It’s a pet peeve bordering on obsession. Being a slow learner, I think I was in college (a hundred years ago) and taking a class on television and advertising before it slapped me in the face that the whole enterprise exists solely to get money out of me. Not that I had any money in college, but hey, take the long view. Like the church. Get ‘em while they’re young. Prior to that I seem to have assumed that all this wonderful programming had been lovingly assembled for me as a public service. We’re just here to help. But now I was suddenly aware that I was having this shit crammed down my throat all the time to someone else’s benefit, and it seemed that the real skills involved in television were to make the ass-ramming invisible to the unsuspecting audience.
Yes, there are gradations in everything. Many sporting events have their roots in competition or entertainment wholly apart from any commercial considerations. A broadcast of such an event is only making it available to more of an audience than could attend the event in person. But now sports stadiums and race cars and players’ jerseys have become billboards for the cameras, and players’ salaries make it clear that this has all moved away from pure sporting drama and toward modern TV culture. And amateur sports are often now just a staging for one’s dreams of the big time, the New American Meal Ticket.
And that’s sports. The rest of TV programming has long ago broken any tenuous links with halcyon days of innocence. News coverage on the networks has become almost entirely focussed on human interest fluff, and the once-pointed edge of controversial trash has become a huge funnel of daytime talk shows and reality TV which swirl like a gigantic toilet, a splattering vortex sucking our culture down to a dark, stinky place.
Maybe I’m way off. Like a ray of God’s sunshine, Steve Johnson‘s book, Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter, says that TV is--it's right there--"actually making us smarter!" It’s a force in evolution, pushing us toward bigger brains! This whole time I had it wrong! I'm actually making myself stupider by not watching TV.
But here's the deal: I spend a hell of a lot of time in hotel rooms. And after 20 years of never watching TV, I find it’s impossible for me to be in a room where a TV is turned on and manage to concentrate on anything else. I know people who virtually never turn their TVs off, who embrace as acceptable background music whatever the network sees fit to put on the air. "It's like having a friend in the house all the time," they say. I can hardly breathe in this setting. But when I’m away at a hotel and stuck inside on a rainy day or tired of my book or whatever, I find myself channel surfing like every good American. I'm not able to just let anything play, and I can't have it on if I'm doing anything else (well, I can manage to take a dump during commercials without hitting the mute button; kind of helps, actually). I’m not physically capable of sitting thru advertisements. But in the end I manage to log more hours in front of the TV nowadays than I like to admit.
So now, to the lovely background music of my wife’s derisive, mocking laughter, I must come clean that... I have become something of a Law & Order junkie. Not the spin-off series, which seem to take the original concept in a cheaper, more titillating direction, but the original, now-on-its-14th-year series. For a weekly program it seems to have consistently good writing, often on par with what I would find acceptable in a good movie, and the characters remain fresher for not being the primary focus of the stories.
Oh, yeah. And it has uber-babes. Not just typical TV eye candy, but ass-kicking eye candy giving seamy criminals the boot in the ass with terse, cutting prose, and all the while wearing a smart, lean ensemble and heels.
So, to complete my slide to the Dark Side, and in an attempt to fulfill the public service promise of TV from my virginal youth, I put to you, dear readers: in the Law & Order universe, who is the fairest of them all?
Jill Hennessy / ADA Claire Kincade
Carey Lowell / ADA Jaime Ross
Angie Harmon / ADA Abby Carmichael
Elisabeth Rohm / ADA Serena Southerlyn
Annie Parisse / ADA Alexandra Borgia
OK, as Lincoln said, “Turn about is fair play.” We mustn’t forget that before the power babes there was Richard Brooks / ADA Paul Robinette. Go ahead; call him a power babe. You sick bastard.
Keep an eye on your local news station for the gripping results of this poll!