When I was a kid, there was a lot of crap on television. But at least it was very clearly entertainment. Effort was put in by writers and actors. Stories with actual plots were told. Now, of course, we live in the age of the reality show. And it has poisoned all of entertainment. In the 1950s, there were prime time game shows. But that went away for decades as people came to expect more. And then came these new game shows called “reality shows,” and now much of what is on at night is game shows — albeit, often game shows with “stars.”
The biggest thing about this trend is that producers have found that there really is no need to tell a compelling story. With proper editing and incidental music, they can make nothing appear to be something. I saw a great example of this last night. It wasn’t a reality show, but a documentary series on The History Channel, Outlaw Chronicles: Hells Angels. I guess it is mostly just interviews with this guy, George Christie Jr, who used to be in the Hells Angels. I really don’t know, nor do I care. As with most things on History, I assume it is all fake anyway. As such, you would think it would be more interesting.
The narrator explained that the Hells Angels were in a battle with some other gang, and so they were planting bombs. As far as I can tell, we’re talking pipe bombs here — dangerous, but not that dangerous, and hardly exotic. Christie and a companion were sent in to pick up a bomb that didn’t detonate — a dud. They were lowering it off a rooftop, but a wind came up and the bomb started hitting against the side of the building.
It was a very tense situation. Did the bomb explode?! No. The wind died down and they got it to the ground safely. This may have had something to do with the fact that the bomb was not functional. But this exciting story is not over — not by a long shot! They put the bomb in the car. But they didn’t do the sensible thing and put it in the trunk. Why, oh why, would they be so foolish?! Could it be that they weren’t actually worried at all and that Christie is just making a big deal out of it now for the home viewer?
Anyway, they put the bomb in the back seat. So they were driving to the disposal site. But apparently, the road they were driving on was not perfect. They hit a pothole, which shook the car. And the bomb… did not go off. But then Christie and his companion started to laugh. They must have laughed for ten minutes. According to him, it was because of the tension. I’m figuring it was because they were both wasted from all the speed and alcohol they were on.
But what’s most amazing is what happened next: nothing. That was the end of the story. Here’s a quick recap of the story: these two guys dispose of an nonfunctional bomb and nothing went wrong. It’s kind of like someone telling you the story, “I was thinking of flying from New Jersey to San Francisco on 9/11 — I could have been on Flight 93!” You could have been. But you weren’t. I would certainly accept such nonsense in a private conversation, but how is that kind of thing considered good television?
I don’t think that the problem is George Christie who is a good raconteur and doubtless has been through some interesting things. But the producers have to fill up time. Soon they will have him down to relating traffic accidents he saw while driving down the freeway. It’s all about cost. And the sad thing is that our civilization can’t see that there is nothing interesting on display. It is “true” and therefore not boring.