A Symposium On TV
A Symposium On TV
Anything as bad a TV must be susceptible to some improvement, but the one sure way of not getting it is to make the programs more “cultural.” The TV chains and the FCC are momentarily nervous, and so they chatter about public responsibility and raising the cultural level, as if these things could be done the way barren fields are sprayed with fertilizer.
Perhaps, in one sense, they can. We should expect in the next few years a proliferation of the solemn and the pompous, a growth of programs featuring adaptations of the classics, prose poems about moral values, and drippy conversations with intellectuals. No prospect could be more chilling. Pumped up with significance, the average program will undergo a transmutation. Johnny Loves Suzie will reappear as Antigone or Moby Dick; a sad minority of culture-seekers will make appreciative sounds because they equate art with boredom; and the mass of spectators, less inhibited, will simply decide that if that is art, then to hell with it.
People say TV is a neutral mechanism, to be used for good or ill, depending on who controls it. This sounds very judicious and sensible, but it might turn out to be nonsense. Suppose TV had an ideal audience (like us) and an ideal sponsorship (again, us). Would it necessarily become a medium hospitable to art? No one can say for certain; but I suspect the results might disappoint. The fact that TV reaches its enormous audience at one time rather than through a progression in time, creates greater difficulties than anyone has yet admitted. In three months our ideal sponsors—I assume them to have virtually unlimited money, talent and energy—would probably exhaust the great classics of the theatre, to say nothing of themselves. What next?
(You may say: how absurd to suppose that the classics can be run through in three months, even under ideal conditions. But that’s exactly the point: TV is the kind of medium which drives people to absurdities.)
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