Saturday, May 30, 2009
Jay Leno stepped away from the "Tonight Show" last night after 17 or so years.
I confess that I didn't watch him leave. In fact I was unaware he was, not having watched him in probably 9 years or so. I never was a huge fan of late night shows. In my much younger days I was often busy doing other things, traveling or just falling into bed too tired to be amused. Plus if Armed Forces TV existed I don't remember.
I did watch some Jack Parr, but missed his last show. Parr never did anything after that and I have often used his departure as a prime example of why we should never do things in a snit. Roman Emperors had a slave whose job was to whisper into their ear, "Remember you are not a God!" Sage advice to all whose power comes from others.
I became a fan of Johnny Carson because the show was uniformly good and I recognized that it was good because of him. And the humor was adult but not vulgar. Plus, much of the humor required the audience to have a basic education. Bob Newhart had a bit in which the punch line was a submarine navigator advising the Captain they would surface off the coast of New York..... or Rio de Janeiro. If you don't know geography that line doesn't work. Comedy was dumbed down to serve a dumbed down audience.
I have never understood why it became funny to toss out a few F bombs and body part references. I never felt compelled to shut them up. I just couldn't understand, although I think much of it was a desire to shock Mommy and Daddy by listening and laughing. And yes, some of the new comedians were funny, but would have been so without the vulgarities.
So, over time Jay became less funny not because he was vulgar, although the show hit that mark a few times, but because what he and the audience found funny I did not.
There were more sports shows, more home improvement, more Channel news, more everything. If Jay bored, the clicker was handy and the Internet sealed the deal. Besides, along with instant communications came continual questions and the job became 24/7.
So the market fragmented. Early on I remember hearing one of the cable founders....Tom??? (senior moment)... say that the limitation of wiring the home wasn't technology but lack of content. He was right. Having 200 channels, all bad, has put a crimp in how much people will spend for TV. IPTV may move the pile a bit, but that is still in the future.
I opine that TV has more choices, most terrible, but fewer viewers, as a percentage of population, than when everyone watched Ed Sullivan. The result is a more fragmented society with a much smaller core of stability.
And as we continue to have more choices the trend will continue.
And as more people pay fewer taxes and as fewer people pay more taxes the resentment will grow in the payers.
It is not logical to think that we can say that our goal is Equal Rights, elect a Black President and then have him nominate a judge for the SC who claims that her seeing things as a Latino and a female is a grand qualification.
It is not logical to claim we want diversity and then write laws to shut people up who say hateful things.
It is not logical for some of us to claim they support the troops while damning our wars.
It is not logical to claim that we are patriots when we not only do not join our military but vehemently oppose being drafted and trained to fight if necessary.
It is not logical for us to have a military that is volunteer and professional and think that it will not, at some point, decide that it will have a large say in who their leader is.
Bad dreams are made of this.