There are few things more miserable than being sick while traveling.  All your usual sources of help and emotional support are out of reach, so it’s just you versus the virus, botulin, tomaine, or whatever, and it always wins the first round.  This time, it hit me in the evening, at the beginning of a work trip, before things got too busy, so I was able to minimize its impact on the job I was sent to do.  I spent one thoroughly hellish night purging my digestive system, then the next two days living on lemon-lime soda and saltine crackers.  Off-time was spent in my hotel room, wrapped in a blanket.

This provided an opportunity, as a captive audience, to assess the current state of American television.  It stinks on ice.  Not a big surprise, but discouraging all the same.  My menu of choices fell into four categories:  News, crime dramas, reality shows, and B-movies.  I’m not counting music videos here, which I classify as commercials…noisy, expensive ads with second-rate music and acting, propped up by scantily-clad dancing girls.

Hmm…that pretty much sums up all commercials.

Anyhow, news is good for one view a day, as everything after 8am is repetition and spin management.  Crime dramas appear to provide some variety, but it’s all formula…bad guy commits crime, cops track down bad guy, bad guy goes to prison, rinse and repeat.  One interesting variation is the crime comedy, which features a humorously defective detective and/or criminal, with loads ‘o laffs sprinkled along the path from murder to Old Sparky.  Reality shows are a depressing reminder of humanity’s stupidity, vanity, and insatiable desire for attention.  They are also a testament to the incredible amount of humiliation people will endure for a chance at what they believe to be fame and fortune.

And the movies…this is harder to understand because there are so many excellent movies that have come down through the years.  The folks doing television programming simply refuse to run them except as “special events,” as if they were in short supply, preferring to endlessly play mindless sex comedies, slasher horror, and violent actioners (usually of the same formula as crime dramas, with a federal or global agency substituted for the police, or better yet, a lone vigilante serving as proxy for justice, since we all know conventional police are fatally corrupt).

For some reason, a smattering of educational programming persists, but while I personally find the life-cycle of the Eastern Wood Pewee to be riveting viewing, I prefer my television without a hefty dose of left-wing political propaganda, even if the Corporation for Public Broadcasting insists it’s good for me. 

 On the plus side, all this dreck provided a powerful incentive to get back on my feet, so I suppose it has useful medicinal properties…which makes sense, because it smells bad and tastes worse.

Time for another saltine.


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