Sunday, March 18, 2007

My Prime Time Experience or...Our National Mental Health Breakdown
I don't watch many tv shows. Most of my tv watching is news, espnnews, cspan and some comedy central. But tonight, for whatever reason, after basketball, I left CBS on and watched prime time programming. 60 Minutes was a horrifying interview with a US soldier, charged with killing men, women and children in Haditha while he was in charge during the first moment of combat he had ever seen in his life. He said, essentially, that he would make all the same decisions all over again if he had the chance.

But that was a subtle emotional experience compared to the fiction. "Cold Case" solved the 8-year-old murder of a homeless mother of 2 who all lived in her station wagon after her husband died of cancer. We spend most of the episode suspecting the ungrateful daughter before guilt finally falls on the one man that had been presented as a decent human, if troubled. We follow a replay of her awful life trying to find work and improve her family while life throws one cruel trick after another her way, mainly for the purpose of generating murder suspects. A subplot I didn't understand that took up only 5 mins of the show involved another cop tracking down the trucker who killed his wife in a hit-and-run. He confronted him in a back alley and pressed a gun to his chest to kill him, before he lost his nerve. All the while there's break-your-heart music just in case you haven't picked up on the pathos.

Before I could really get started being depressed, I get to "without a trace", which followed the story of a lonely 15-year-old who goes missing after posting videos of herself online offering up her virginity. She lives with her grandfather who told her her parents died in a car accident when actually her mother died in childbirth and her father went insane and tried to kill his newborn daugher out of grief. Oh and did I mention that her grandfather is dying of kidney failure? We follow her through the attack by some high school boys, and her encounter with her eventual statutory rapist and are, I suppose, expected to react with glee over the implied abuse he suffers at the hands of police brutality. There's the meeting with the estranged father who can't care for her and the teary reunion as she's returned to her grandfather-caregiver that has about 6 months to live.

So, best as I can tell, prime time network tv is about guardians hanging on for dear life to care for their ungrateful children while the world around them is made up of threats by predators, disease, broken families and mental illness. After 2+ hours of that I already feel like not getting out of bed for the next week. Are there people that actually watch that stuff all of the time? I'm going back to ESPN, Comedy Central, C-Span, CNN and MSNBC.

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