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Entertainment Is Essential: Unless It's Not Entertaining!

Upon the success of my debut ENTERTAINMENT article (just kidding — but seriously, you should read it), I caved to unpopular demand in deciding to compose a sequel.  Or a string of sequels.  What could I possibly say to generate further lack of interest?  The solution is obvious:  I need to discuss what isn't Entertainment.  Like this article.  (Insert canned laughter.)  Okay, I'm being facetious.  The initial ENTERTAINMENT was well-received, and that's a lot to live up to.  I'm under a great deal of pressure.  

The first concept that popped into my noggin was to gossip about gossip columnists who like to be rude and insulting.  I know how painful it is to be verbally attacked.  I was taunted as a child.  Therefore, I could never stoop to the level of a name-calling dirt-dishing celebrity mawker.  I simply could not resort to such offensive behavior.  It would seem unprofessional.  Scratch that.

Of course, the same goes for a photo essay on paparazzi.  I wouldn't feel comfortable stalking them day and night, hounding their every footstep, turning the camera to aim at unscrupled freelance lensers during their most candid and embarrassing moments.  Why, that might border on harassment which, I believe, is against the law.  Besides, is it actually entertainment?  I think not.

Then what should I discuss?

Hmm, I've heard there's a television show on Animal Planet about an octopus mother and her eight — what does one call a baby octopus?  Now there's a question!  Let me check . . .  Ah-hah, squiggies!

Fine, I made it up.  They're squigglets.  Anyway, the series follows the family as this busy mother raises her young.  That might be educational and heartwarming.  See, I don't mind Reality programs like CROCODILE HUNTER and WHALE WARS and MYTHBUSTERS that have intrinsic value as entertainment.  Yes, even AMERICAN IDOL does have some redeeming factors, beneath the cruelty and exploitation.  I will admit the series is superior to the typical rash of voyeuristic trash that expects us to stare at people like animals in a zoo.

Here it is, my guilty confession:  IDOL can bring tears to my eyes, whether rewound or live.  The show has its moments.  In contrast, the majority of exhibition series do not entertain.  Your average Reality Star Du Jour tends to exceed the allotted five to fifteen minutes of Fame.  They lack exceptional skill or talent.

A-List celebrities are praiseworthy individuals who have genuinely earned the status and proven themselves more than mere flashes in the pan.  Some are actually famous for the right reasons, and are admirable persons along with possessing prowess.  They may serve as role models for those of us with ambition who remain unrecognized and struggle to accomplish dreams.  They are the ones who defied the odds and did what, to others, can seem impossible.  It is the so-called celebrities who did little or nothing to gain our respect about whom we should ask ourselves, "Why care?"

Getting back to the octopus mom . . .  What?  She's human?  And she gave birth to squiggles?  That's just plain bizarre!  That should be on RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT.

Oh, I see, the babies are human.  What does it have to do with octopuses?  Or Animal Planet?  Nothing?  Then why is there a show?  Because another series about parents raising eight kids was a success and television viewers love copycats?  Who says?  Oh, there's a plot twist?  An unwed woman craved a family so she went to a fertility doctor — again and again and again — to buy test-tube children?  Her latest batch hatched eight, but the total brood numbers fourteen kids?  And the world became fascinated by her story?

On second thought, I don't see.  And I don't want to.  I'm changing the channel.  Tuning out.  It's a perfect example of what isn't entertaining.  Not to mention name-calling!  Which I didn't want to mention!

Sure, some folks fancy shows about knitting nuns while others prefer the spectacle of snail racing.  These days there's a network for just about anything.  Yet amidst the raucous three-ring hubbub, quality entertainment can still be found in the realm of T.V.  You simply have to exercise discretion, that seldom-used discernment muscle toward the rear of your brain.  Or wherever it is.  It's in there someplace!  Find it, and put the thumb muscle that operates your remote control to better use.

In my opinion, if you sit around and watch whatever like a wide-eyed zombie, or the mush-minded next meal of hungry aliens from Planet Hulu, you're just spoiling it for those of us who care.  Haven't we been through enough?  We survived the most destructive season ever.  I'm not referring to farm crops, wildfires, floods, tornadoes, or hurricanes.  I speak of television casualties, the worst devastation in the history of broadcast; the highest amount of cancellations targeting quality shows between Fall and the end of Spring!

In case you only care about what's popular, you will probably not wish to hear how paramedics had to jumpstart my heart with shock-paddles and adrenaline — or was it mechanics? — whichever, it was all very Mary Shelley — when I learned about one of my favorite shows, MEDIUM, being dropped by N.B.C.

Got ya!  That never happened.  Okay, the part about MEDIUM was true.  The rest of it, not so much.  I can truthfully state that C.B.S. not only rescued MEDIUM, but I myself was spared from heart failure.

I was already on figurative Life Support from the TERMINATOR series being axed.  Unfortunately, there came no reprieve for the stellar show and my premonitions of dread were realized.  PUSHING DAISIES, at least, granted fans a happy ending — bittersweet though it was to lose a truly singular experience, each episode a dazzling work of art.

Entertainment at its best is unforgettable.  Page or stage or screen, canvas or chord, it elevates and transforms.  I am at its mercy, forever in its debt.

Television has become tremendously popular yet has been denigrated since it began, both deservedly and undeservedly.  One fact seems evident:  The more channels and networks that are available, the larger and sharper the picture is defined, the less quality we seem to find on that glowing screen.  Nonetheless, I believe the television programs I've loved (past and present) serve as a reminder of the quality attainable — however fleeting.

Additionally, I view television as an example we can get along in this world.  Like the streets of urban America, the window of T.V. provides glimpses of races, religions, ethnicities, and nationalities — working as a team, cooperating, sharing similar hopes and dreams, laughing and crying together.  Besides the characters in front of the cameras, look behind the scenes to the cast and crew, the writing staff, the producers, the network executives and advertisers.  I see diversity.  I see hope.

Indeed, removed from the extremer trappings of Culture and Customs, given a common background, the differences that separate are shed and these members of American communities become virtually indistinguishable.  Don't get me wrong.  They exhibit their colorful quirks and charming individual traits.  A number have accents, while others do not.  They dress in a wide range of fashions and wear their heritage proudly.  But below these surface elements, in their hearts and minds, they are one race.  Human.  And it can happen anywhere, not just America.

I think television can be a force for Change, a force of Good.  Just like the internet.  Or the opposite.  It is up to us to make the right choices.

We have Entertainment to thank for spreading racial and religious tolerance, greater appreciation of wildlife and Nature, as well as awareness of how drastically the environment has been damaged by humans.  Contrarily, to some extent, we have Entertainment to blame for the gradual decay in morals and compassion and even standards of cleanliness.

Let's face it.  A steady stream of violent images flashed in our faces from video games, movies, shows, news, and the internet is bound to desensitize us.  Teen dramas about crushes and parties and behaving like "adults" will inevitably encourage kids to grow up too soon.  That isn't Entertainment.  It's brainwashing.  Conditioning.  Corrupting.

As a lover of words and language, I am thoroughly repulsed by authors and filmmakers who feel the need to debase narrative and dialogue with explicit foul-mouthed cringe-worthy material.  I can recall when T.V. censors in The Seventies let slip that notorious three-letter S-word.  Practically every show had to use it in practically every other spoken line.  And so it has gone, with a variety of S-words and D-words and B-words.  Cable networks increasingly permit the F-bomb.  Don't get me started on the vulgar content of T.V. commercials.  Or the vagaries of the music industry's decline.  Where are we going with this?  Straight to the H-word in a handcart!  I'm not alone in that estimation.

And to think that I've been criticized for using big words in my Poetic Prose and Literary Nonsense . . . for being verbose and — gasp! — too descriptive!  Alas, meticulously as I edit, devoutly as I hunt down the fetid felonious redundancy and strive to expand my vocabulary, there will be complaints about my syntax and style.  I can't please everyone, despite my eclectic range of genres.  There will also be fans.  And this is why I dare to differ, why I risk the wrath of many for the praise of . . . well, so far, a few.

As for cleanliness, I remember when it became a trend on television to plant street shoes on the sofa or bed.  It was "real".  Everyone had to do it.  Other nasty habits evolved.  Until nobody gave it a second thought.  I'm not saying most people used to be immaculate.  Far from it.  But really, that five-second rule for food?  Don't eat it!!!

We have to ask ourselves, how low can we sink?  Judging by the current state of almost-everything-goes — the very creation of a gamer app called "Shake The Baby" speaks volumes — I'd say we are pretty much there.  It's time to move UP, like The Jeffersons, or Disney-Pixar's animated film.  Because, honestly, it can't get much worse than it already is.

Contrary to modern belief, Entertainment can even be found outside the idiot box, your computer screen, those handheld electronic Swiss-Army-knife gizmos.  Look around, people!  There are plenty of things to do.  Play cards, a boardgame, roll the dice.  I'm not referring to Vegas, but those dusty archaic forms of social activity that existed long before the advent of video games.  Take time to read.  It can be soothing, incredibly fun and exciting, not to mention enlightening.  Theaters are centers of amusement dating back to Classical Greece.  Better still, embark on a genuine adventure by exploring the wonders of Nature.  (But, as WILDMANyak advises, don't forget your survival kit!)

Sometimes a simple conversation will pass the time superbly.  Communicate with those you care about.  Reach out to someone who's lonely, or less fortunate, or in turmoil.  The smallest gesture can bring enormous joy.  (Just beware of strangers with candy.  Or driving a van.  Or carrying an axe.  Good grief, that means Dorothy shouldn't have befriended The Tin Woodsman!!!)

Instead of stepping on bugs and fumigating, take time to notice the beetles and bees, the ants and spiders and butterflies, the birds and squirrels and trees in your life.  They're beautiful and fascinating.  (Except for roaches, mosquitos, rats, and fleas.  If you see them, run!)

Take a moment to draw a deep breath of satisfaction for what's right in the world and what's right around you.  Then, consider what you can do to help change or improve what isn't.

Maybe I'm rambling.  I guess what I'm trying to express with this article . . .  Oh, all right, let's call it a column because as prone as I am to thinking in trilogies, there is apt to be a subsequent installment.

What I am attempting to convey is that "Tweety" is entertaining.  The syndrome of Trivial Overload also known as "Tweeting" is not.

Enough said.  Literally.

In closing, I'd like to impart a slice of wisdom that relates to the theme.  To borrow a quote from my epic tome DANCE OF THE CHUPACABRAS:  "One's options in this world are as vast as the horizon, which is technically a circle and thus infinitely broad.  Yet we must choose each step we take with utmost caution, for the footprints we leave behind are as important as the path we will follow.  They're part of the same journey — our story." 

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Descriptive Drivel:  Dance Of The Chupacabras

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