Monday, January 24, 2011

No "art" in the entertainment

MTV’s new show “Skins” has garnered a lot of adverse “attention” because it shows an “unusual” amount of “skin” for the “tweener” demographic. I don’t know what the show is about, and don’t care because I won’t be watching it anyway. But I’m not sure what the complainers are complaining about; anything “young person”-oriented on cable TV (meaning 16 to 25) has plenty of “skin,” certainly more than you see in “real life,” since these “reality” TV shows are conducted in a world that normal people are unfamiliar with. In any case, MTV and VH-1 have strayed so far from their roots that music video “DJs” have already become museum artifacts. There’s no music; in my John Lennon post, I noted my frustration with contemporary “hits” stations that play the same damn ten boring songs over, and over, and over again for years, it seems. MTV is wall-to-wall “reality” inanity, or insanity. I suppose they still play the music videos still being made, but I’ve never seen them; you are certainly more likely to see them somewhere on the web. VH-1 hasn’t featured the “classics” since the mid-1990s, and seems to have abandoned the music video format altogether as well. Of course, because there are far fewer “hit” songs being made, that also means that there are fewer videos being produced, and the videos that are being made are not particularly creative; MadTV’s parodies of contemporary videos were completely tasteless, and completely spot-on.

But MTV and VH-1’s abandonment of music is not anywhere near as horrendous as Arts & Entertainment’s abandonment of “art.” I recall back in the 1980’s when it was all about “art.” Much of the programming involved biographies, documentaries and British TV shows, but what I enjoyed most were drama productions like Leonard Nimoy’s “Vincent,” a one-man play on the life of Vincent Van Gogh, Tom Cole’s play “Medal of Honor Rag” starring Hector Elizondo and Damien Leake, about a psychiatrist trying to help a scarred Vietnam vet whose medal was both a “blessing” and a curse in his life, and the J.M. Synge play about escaping the dull, meaningless life, “Playboy of the Western World,” starring John Hurt (in Synge’s Ireland, a “playboy” was a trickster). Today, A&E’s programming is just more of those damned “reality” shows.

What does this say about the current state of society? A lack of imagination? A failure to discern great truths from great art—or rather a lack of tolerance or patience for the critical thinking required? A preference for observing the inanity of silly, self-absorbed people you can feel “superior” to? A constant stream of crime shows where “technical” dialogue is mistaken for intelligent or witty dialogue (where are you, Mannix?). Whatever. All I know is that when I want “entertainment” that is art, I won’t be looking on television for it.

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