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Television . . . can give you that satisfying “What am I doing here?” feeling. But where presently an acceptable balance has been struck between the slick, bland nationally produced material and the crummy, down-home material between 60 Minutes and your news director speaking with knowledgeable citizens on the local drug crisis, between Budweiser’s Clydesdales and your local supermarket’s low low prices 30 or 40 channels of constant locally produced programs \(as balance altogether. It is one thing to find relief from the slick material in the occasional bit of underexposed footage or the stiffness and discomfort of the daughter of the local Magnavox magnate but it is something when all you can get is people who look like real people selling groceries or portraying the founding fathers of Amarillo. It might tend to make you hunger for that other world of illusion where sexy ladies caress mattresses which are seducing them, where a group of disgustingly healthy young people joyously bounce around drinking Miller’s in a beach house, the cuts well-timed and the lighting perfect. There is the possibility of what is called “public access” which would mean that cable owners would be required to set aside several channels exclusively for the use of anyone who could get the money together to rent time on them, and the owners would exercise no control over what went down the wires on these channels. On the face of it, it sounds like a good idea, what with the possibilities for raunchy TV, but then there is the idea of “public service” to which “public access” is obviously tied. And we already have public television whatever its other magnificent qualities, Jude the Obscure is not raunchy. Occasionally Cavett comes close. Where presently we have television which only tries to take your money, public access television will try to take your mind. When Pepsi-Cola asks for my money I give it gladly, but I might be a little annoyed by the ADA or Brandeis or the Birch Society asking for my soul. Especially when they are taking an hour where Pepsi only takes a minute and then brings me Burt Reynolds as Dan August unravelling the enigma surrounding another murdered swinger. 4 And cassettes. Cassette television is obviously an idea conceived and developed by a sadist. The idea being that you buy or borrow the program that you want and then shove it in the machine, and then, presumably, you watch it. What kind of toy is that? The advantages of the cassette idea have been discussed all over the place, but the major disadvantages have been ignored. For instance, while it is true that you could watch whatever films you wanted when and where you wanted, it also introduces more objects into your life-situation cartridges which most of the time sit around and do nothing besides providing new material for status games, like a new collection of LPs. And you might want to move sometime. And your friends would steal Gloria Steinem Explains Everything and take it with them when they went to California. And .. . Those are only minor hassles, but what is terrifying is that the structure of the game is radically changed. Instead of a dull, dreary but faithful companion you have a bright exciting possession. People who have had them tell me that bright exciting possessions \(a new car, watch, rubber possessions. And you will find that your companion’s dullness could as easily have been thought of as an appealing ability to offend nothing more dear to you than your refined sensibility. It is a great deal easier to de-refine your sensibility to a more tolerable level than it is to maintain the pretense that you are getting ecstatic over some Eastern European’s dark dreary self-indulgence \(Closely Watched which you have chosen to watch there with your wineskin. Refining sensibilities was originally designed as a way to get education money away from the government, anyway. Being able to appreciate Masculine-Feminine does not necessarily preclude swinging with Mannix, no matter what your teacher told you. And worries about God and Aaron Spelling only concerns himself with the evil lives of people smoking dope, there is no reason to assume that Bergman’s produce is any more interesting than Spelling’s. I mean, I know he’s a genius, but he’s a genius in black and white. While when you sit at night and watch Man and the City you are in some kind of vague community with the rest of the world \(.. . they’re really watchin in Boston, Pittsburg P A, deep in the heart of you slap 2001 or A Tour of the Museum of Modern Art into your cassette television and sit down to watch it, you are all alone. It is not so much your control over the machine that is terrifying but what that control makes obvious that it’s just you and the toy, and it’s getting darker outside. Somehow, commercial television has managed to convince us that someone or some group is sending if we’re receiving, and that if we’re receiving so’s Aunt Edna in Boise. Comments on television which are acceptable: local news jerks were . . . Why do local newsmen always look like jerks?” [A worthy observation stolen.] “Did you catch Stephanie Powers in her on ‘?!” “What’d it look like in color?” 6 Now available. Presently we have The NBC Mystery Movie, three separate series which alternate Wednesday nights, with Columbo, starring Peter Falk as a rumpled .police lieutenant; McCloud, ,back from last year at Four-In-One, with Dennis ‘Weaver as the country deputy showing up the fancy New York cops; and McMillan & Wife with Rock Hudson as San Francisco police commissioner and Susan St. James as his Susan St. James-ish wife. You can like all of them, although McMillan is mostly a showplace for Miss St. James, and Columbo is tending dangerously toward the Mission Impossible syndrome filming one episode and showing it all season. Anthony Quinn is fun to watch if you don’t use the expression “Zorba the mayor,” and have a high tolerance for cliches. After all, Tony Quinn delivering platitudes is still Tony Quinn. But he is running against Mannix on one side where pretty frequently you can get a good decadent divorcee. On the other side is Night Gallery, another piece of Four-In-One, Rod Serling’s, which you ought to watch at least once so you can wonder What ever happened to Rod Serling’s imagination? Ironside is strong, still. You can watch Mod Squad if you want to. Made-for-TV movies are good for the same reason Mery and Carson are, plus the fact that more often than not they’ll have Anjanette Comer, Margot Kidder, Sandra local someone. Made for TV “relevance” is dynamite if you don’t feel it necessary to believe in Ralph Nader or Zero Population Growth either, that is, if you don’t go about it as an exercise in condescension. Occasionally you can get Bob Wagner in something. Sleazy movies as a genre are probably the best on television. Art movies would be all right if they weren’t shown at midnight, or if you’re not drunk by midnight. There are reams of old Hollywood sleazy movies which are now so far exceeded by 70’s Hollywood that they can get on television, and they form perhaps the most wonderful and interesting group of movies there. Examples: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Butterfield 8, Love Has Many Faces, Claudelle English, Splendour in the Grass, Hurry Sundown \(Jane Another closely related genre is the sleazy Southern film, either contemporary or “historical.” The Foxes of Harrow, Written on the Wind, Baby the Rain Must Fall Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Hurry Sundown, The Chase. Almost anything with Mitchum, Brando, Burton, Cagney, Paul Newman, Bogart, Clark December 17, 1971 3