By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News
Posted 5/20/15 (Wed)
On Nov. 24, 1963, television viewers in the United States saw something hideous, scary, cruel and unprecedented.
It was the news reel of Jack Ruby fatally shooting Lee Harvey Oswald just two days after Oswald assassinated President Kennedy.
It’s an important date in U.S. history because of the shooting, but more subtle and eventually more shocking is it set a precedent for television in the United States because it allowed a shooting, at close range, to be shown on TV.
Four years later Dan Rather was reporting back to the CBS Evening News from Vietnam about the casualties American service members were suffering.
Many of us remember the helicopters taking off behind Rather on his news set. CBS, in effect, brought the Vietnam War into our living rooms.
In the early 1970s, we saw Watergate play out on TV until a shameful President Richard Nixon resigned in August 1974.
As time went on, television became more abrasive and risque.
In 1990, a show called “In Living Color” debuted on the FOX network. It was the first time we would see provacative female dancing on American network television.
And to think that 23 years prior, Barbara Eden from “I Dream of Jeannie,” was barred from showing her navel on the program.
Nowadays, you turn on the TV and on any given night on the networks you will see murders happen, coroners examing bodies, people being kidnapped, others shooting heroin and no respect for the police.
There’s a lot of blood shown on TV, and yes I know it’s fiction, but not everyone perceives it that way.
If we aren’t watching crime and death, we are watching comedy and even that is becoming questionable.
CBS airs a show on Monday night called “Two Broke Girls” in which a couple of young women work as waitresses in a New York restaurant but somehow find the financing to purchase their own cupcake shop.
Most often the one-liners are cheap and there is so much sexual innuendo in that show, it’s becoming sickening.
If we aren’t watching death or comedy, we’re watching reality shows that seem to prioritize the betrayal of each other to get a bigger TV audience. It’s meaningless and shallow and it doesn’t represent life as it should be, yet many people perceive it as reality?
So what happened to television? Why did it get so out of control and who allowed it to happen?
If you’ve ever watched the “Andy Griffith Show” from the 1960s, you know that every episode had an educational message.
If you’ve ever watched “Bonanza,” you’ll notice that every episode, in a totally different setting than Andy Griffith, had an educational message.
And comedy was funny. Tim Conway and Carol Burnett were always pulling silly antics on each other, Lucille Ball remains to this day one of the best comedians in television history and Shecky Greene was getting hit in the face with pies, all of it hilarious.
That was comedy, and it was funny, not disgusting like a lot of comedy on TV today.
One can always argue free speech and that the government doesn’t have the right to censor television.
Censor no, regulate yes.
Do you remember the 1970 song “American Woman” by the Winnipeg group the Guess Who?
The lyrics barred the song for several years from American radio stations because of the words in the song, “I don’t need your war machines, I don’t need your ghetto scenes.”
Apparently, the FCC was trying to protect the American public from lead singer Burton Cummings’ rant about American politics and the Vietnam War effort.
Is it censorship or regulation?
It just seems mind boggling that advertisers would support some of the programming on TV today. Not only is TV losing its integrity, but so are the companies that endorse the programs that showcase nothing more than cheap simulation.
Somehow TV needs to get back to silly comedy and educational messages. And we wonder why the world is so messed up today.
Television is a powerful tool that can be used for education or promoting devious behavior.
What we need is programming that promotes healthy eating habits, conservation, U.S. defense and family.
I think if we stopped purchasing the products advertised on TV, things would change pretty fast. Until then, I guess we’re stuck with blood, gore and risque comedy.