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Mission Impossible is undoubtedly the worst. The Impossible Mission Force may be magic, but not one of them bothers to even try to act some of them don’t even try to read. And George was what you call a terrible mistake. Cannon is all right if you like fat old private investigators and Five-0 is usually interesting in spite of Tack Lord \(good made-for-TV movies so you have the makings of an approach-approach conflict. Although I can take a cop in a wheelchair, I can’t manage a cop who became a priest or a blind insurance investigator, so you can’t have Sarge Longstreet. Bearcats is a downer when they have to bring a vintage airplane \(flown by reinforce their vintage automobile in the second episode of the series, you know it’s not only brought to you by the Jolly 4 The Texas Observer Green Giant, he wrote it. The series has already been killed by the network, anyway, so save yourself the grief. The prospect is that The Sonny and Cher Show will replace Bearcats in January, and don’t gag, remember last summer when they had an all-girl rock group named Fanny who did a number called Charity Ball. Any irony is better than none. Welcome to Prague. 7 The crucial shortcoming of most of contemporary television is not \(as to portray lifestyles that are alternatives to rabid consumerism, but the overwhelming absence of irony. Other than sex, I can’t think of anything TV needs more than irony. Of course, there are reasons. Irony doesn’t sell toothpaste, or automobiles, or feminine hygiene sprays. Incredible! At the outset I said that there was nothing wrong with TV, and rather than admit error so easily I would prefer to find a remedy for the apparent problem, a remedy which relies on the skill of the viewer instead of that of NBC. The most satisfying irony is the kind you make yourself, anyway. Fortunately, . the two things which television lacks most sex and irony have a kindly way of making themselves interdependent. Attempts to get sex onto television are a rewarding source of irony. A. feminine hygiene spray! The Mery Griffin Show! While Mery may not be much of a presence, he is certainly an acceptable emblem of contemporary TV programming a personality with no edges and a compulsive need for ratings. Mery knows what people want, and he does his damnedest to give it to them. What people want, Mery figures, is sex, and Mery is second only to Freud in uncovering the sexual content of everything. Mery doesn’t waste time fooling around with double entendre like Carson. If he can’t make his transitions with some vague cognitive jump he does it with brute force, and a pervasive good will. The trouble with the sexual content of his show is that so much of it is packaged in Detroit Charro is a good example. There is nothing much worse than a cynic with an impoverished imagination, and Merv’s guest list could only be chosen by just such a person. The irony comes in because Mery tries so hard. He sweats blood. It is a heartrending war between the medium and the intended message. The medium wins of course, but Merv’s struggle is glorious. The modern Sisyphus! Mery used to run a segment occasionally which consisted of all his guests, fully-clothed, getting into a bed together onstage. Then someone would say something. Laughter rages in the audience. It was pathetic. It was the high-point of Merv’s talkshow career. Merv’s late night show may not last past February. 8 As much as I respect Nicholas Johnson, I think it’s fair to say that contemporary American society but does not create it. And, as much as I respect Dwight MacDonald and The New York ReVieW of Bobks, I think contemporary American society is interesting. And, as what would happen if television were made more “creative.” Because, as much as I respect everyone else, I think the people can use an opiate, and if the Methodists and the Catholics and the Episcopalians and the Jews and the Muslims and the alpha-dynamics people and Arthur Janov aren’t going to be able to handle it, be glad that television is standing by. 9 iC . and you can’t be sure what vitamins you’re getting in today’s processed foods . . .” Ha ha! STEVE BARTHELME