CAMPOut:Fay's Rehoboth Journal
|by Fay Jacobs|
|We Are Fa-mi-ly!!!!
Hallelujah! After years of offering up my unsolicited opinions, this week I actually got a formal request for my preferences. I'm a Neilsen Family!!!!
Yes, after my more than half a century of watching the boob tube (which, sadly, matches the entire history of television) the ratings folks finally found me and want to know what I watch.
For fifty years the Neilsens have gotten their information from couch spuds watching Car 54 Where Are You, The Gong Show, Mr. Ed, and, my choice for situation comedy sludge The Beverly Hillbillies. Meanwhile, my favorites, Route 66, Cagney & Lacey, and Designing Women suffered premature rejectulation.
It's about time they queried (queeried?) somebody who dotes on PBS, devours the news and lies in wait for high-toned TV dramas. Oh, that's right, there hasn't been a high-toned TV drama since Playhouse 90 went off the air in 1961.
Never mind. While this could be my opportunity to bring a more cultured, erudite and discriminating queer eye to the ratings pie, the truth is that I'm going to have to admit to shilling for The L Word, and never missing that new Monday night disaster The Medium. The acting is painful and the dialogue embarrassing, but like traffic crack-up on Route One, I have to stare. Just as those Brady Bunch fanatics and Dynasty suckers ponied up the truth about their viewing habits, I too, am determined to reward the Neilsen people for their faith in me by simply returning their diary with my actual television choices for sweeps week 2005.
Oh, but if it had been that easy.
They give you a damn diary for every working TV in your house. Hell, the one in front of the treadmill hasn't glowed since my 2003 flirtation with the Adkins Diet.
But there's the Sony in Bonnie's home office droning on all day long as white noise while she works. At any given time she has no idea whether she's watching an old Victor Mature movie or an Abmaster infomercial. Is this even watching? Do we dare give people the impression that each morning, somewhere in Delaware, somebody's actually paying attention to Jessica Fletcher on Murder She Wrote?
Here's a question: does proper diary entry require intent or actual consciousness? What about those 10 p.m. episodes of Law & Order where, despite our best Criminal Intent, we watch the gruesome murder but doze off, mouth agape, on the sofa before the jury comes back?
If they'd asked us to be a Neilsen Family 20 years ago this wouldn't even be a question. Our diary would show St. Elsewhere and Hill Street Blues followed by Johnny Carson, followed by Dave Letterman. Back then, I never even understood why they broadcast 10 o'clock news. "I can't believe people don't stay up for Carson," I'd sneer.
Somewhere in the early 90s, following that wicked lesbian kiss on L.A. Law, the question morphed into "Do you believe people don't stay up for the news?"
Now, without Delmarva 10 p.m. news I'd have to wait until morning for word of fog bound schools and the number of chickens with influenza.
But here's the real question. If we-are-fa-mi-ly Neilsen, who's included? The dogs watch Animal Planet when we go out. Should this be in the diary? I really need to know.
On our bedroom TV, our late-night choice is the Travel Channel. We routinely fall asleep somewhere between the Grand Canyon, Monster RVs and an Albuquerque Chile Cook-off. Is everything after toothpaste and before REM sleep legit?
So this week I've been busier running back and forth, pen and diary in hand, between TV sets than I ever was on that treadmill. Frankly, it's a wonder I've had time to watch anything. But I did make certain I reported taping The L Word in its 10 p.m. time slot, while watching The Academy Awards, a.k.a. The Gay Superbowl.
I also let the Neilsens know that while I was watching Hilary Swank's va-va-voom backless gown, I was taping that cutie on Cold Case. Then, I propped my eyeballs open and watched, and duly recorded that I watched, the repeat of The L Word at midnight. The things you do for love.
One day, as I loped between the living room (CNN People in the News) and Bonnie's office (the fifth Murder She Wrote of the day) it occurred to me that perhaps these opinions were not as crucial as some I could offer about the actual content on television news. Especially on news shows.
Like what's with the U.S. Armed Forces spending 200 million dollars to train new translators and logistics experts because they kicked out a whole lotta smart gay people because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell?" Hey, Neilsens, I got those stats this week on CNN. Somebody do the math and give me the ratings for that stupid Pentagon policy.
And how about Christo's Gates in New York's Central Park as seen on CBS Sunday Morning. I trundled my butt up the turnpike to see the things and yes, they looked like lox-colored shower curtains hanging on goal posts (or, as my friend Cathin said, "laundry day at the Hari Krishna house"). But they certainly caused a 250 million dollar tourist ruckus in the Big Apple. Whether it was my kind of art or not (actually, I liked the spectacle), it sure was an event with impressive ratings.
And then on Larry King, 60 Minutes and the rest I heard about "reporter" Jeff Gannon, in reality a schmo named James Guckert, who's had a daily press pass to the White House for over a year so he could lob softball questions to the President. His questions also included overt criticism of liberals and inaccurate information about pretty much everything I hold dear.
Never mind that Guckert (Delaware's own, by the way), purporting to be a family-values Conservative, is linked to various X-rated gay escort service web sites and other risky business.
He's what one blogger calls a Family Values Hypocrite. I agree. And legendary reporter Helen Thomas lost her front seat in the pressroom? I give this shameful situation terrible ratings.
But no, during this Sweeps Week ("Woman has 160 lb. tumor!" "Stars Without Make-Up!") people will probably just fill out their diaries with nights spent watching contestants wade through worms on Fear Factor, shove miniaturized cameras into open wounds on CSI, and argue with each other as they bungee-jump canyons in The Great Race.
I'm off to watch all the political shows I taped on Sunday morning. I have to let those Neilsens know I support network news divisions. These are the real reality shows.
But then like the dyke drama whore I am, I'll be watchingand notatingmy third re-run of The L Word. Dear Diary, long live lesbian visibility on TV!
And thanks for asking, Neilsens!
Fay Jacobs is the author of As I Lay Fryinga Rehoboth Beach Memoir and can be reached at www.fayjacobs.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 2 March 11, 2005