Monday, August 01, 2005

Current TV - Candy Everbody Wants

So New World International, the CBC's no-frills, no-nonsense, cable news channel, signed off forever at 9:00 PM PST or a little more than an hour ago. I wouldn’t say I “loved” NWI. In fact, I was often annoyed by its lack of content – flying in hours of programming from other channels rather than developing their own – but in the kingdom of the blind – the blind being the McNews hegemony represented by CNN-FOX, with their overheated news anchors, short-attention span blurbing, and celebrity-obsessed, USA-Is-Number-One propaganda – the 24 hour news channel without an annoying news ticker, is king.

Actually, I only really watched NWI because I could rely on it to give me seven-to-twelve minutes of headlines at the top of the hour (sorry for the “news-speak”). And the reason I went to Canada for my headlines rather than CNN’s Headline News Channel is because I knew that I wouldn’t have to listened to the thinly veiled sanctimony of some polished and primped American news reader who you know really wants to join the Ministry of Information so they can serve up the pabulum fresh from the source.

NWI tearfully went off the air without any real sincere hope of staging a comeback. The CBC doesn’t have the capital. I can only hope the BBC will make the World Service more widely available to American cable.

Al Gore’s Current TV took over at nine o’clock PM (midnight EST) with a rousing couple of verses from The Ramones version of What a Wonderful World. It didn’t matter that they had recorded it with un-ironic intent (Joey was dying and wanted to send out positive vibes), the new channel wanted to co-opt the song to make a very important statement about their relative hipness. Shortly, a flurry of text and images hurl out of the screen like some sort of amphetamine-induced psycho vomit, before dissolving into the dot-matrix retro-font declaring its name. For the next hour the channel throws down dozens of “pods” or mini-documentaries. Each segment ends with a return to the channel’s HQ, a swank techo-lodge of red paneling and 360 degree views above a city (sort of a way of saying “we’re COULD be watching you, but we’re having too much fun in here to care.”) where we are greeted by the same sort of folks who, twenty five years ago, would have been veejays on the fledgling MTV. From their Urban Outfitter/Tommy H. couture, to their slightly askew way of talking to the camera, to their “I don’t know what the fuck I’m saying, and I don’t care” prattle, they are “Cool” in the most trademarketable way. You half expect them to announce each segment with “NOW HERE’S MY BOY KINKO DA KLOWN WITH A REPORT ON PRISON LABOR IN CHINA… TO THE EXTREEEEME!!!!”

One segment that was of particular interest was the “pod” about youth culture in Iran. That is to say, the only youth culture worth talking about which is the western style of hyper-consumerism, loud music, sex, drugs, drink, and generalized debauchery. The reporter, either an American or a Canadian, interviewed a rather select group of Iranians including a bunch who had congressed at an upscale apartment for a house party. The music was blaring, the gals were scantly dressed, cigarettes, booze, “even Ecstasy!!!” were widely consumed. Reporter: “If I didn’t know any better, this could be a party in Brooklyn.” Except, these Iranian kids are, I surmise, less than “typical.” Later she interviews other young people and, I would say obsessively, inquires about whether they know any gay people. One group of girls needs this explained to them: “you know, girls with girls, boys with boys.” For some reason, these young women were less than forthcoming about admitting to anything so commonplace as being acquainted with someone who, in their country, could be executed for the crime of homosexuality.

The segment ends ( I am not going to call it a “pod” anymore. It demeans us all) and we return to the lounge. The camera whirls around the host in that way that is supposed to simulate the viewer’s perception (because, don’t you bob and weave with your interlocutor when having a conversation?). She introduces herself as “Amanda,” she looks a remarkable combination of bored and horny. Wet, sultry, pink-glossed lips manage to part with great effort. Surely she has something of value to say of merit. She is, after all, being beamed into pontentially millions of households” “wow… it’s a crime to be gay in Iran. Bummer.” Ok, she didn’t say “bummer” but I am trying to get across her general attitude, one of “I don’t really care, but I hope I look good.” This was followed by a segment by a fellow who had his cel phone number hacked off of Paris Hilton’s gizmotron and how its actually a good thing that his privacy was invade. “Its like hosting my own radio call-in show!” and “Maybe too much privacy is a bad thing.” I probably would have felt bad for him if he A) weren’t a friend of Paris Hilton’s, and B) if he weren’t driving around an expensive sports car.

Too much privacy? Ok, I’ll let your car insurance company know you are driving around the Bay area having endless chat-ups with your new cel-friends. Would you mind?

Connect TV, though still less than a day old, seems to already be the most annoying channel on television. Which is saying a lot considering how ESPN now offers competitive hot-dog eating as regular programming and Fox will soon launch a 24 hour reality TV channel. All that is crass and self-reflexive about what we used to call Gen X (and those little horny sluggers in Gen Y) comes to the surface in the most mundane and banal manner Connect. It all seems so desperate… and I mean that to the EXTREEMMMM!!!!

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