Viewing the Doom of Our Global Village


First we were ravaged by VCRs. Then there were the cable marauders. Then the networks began to self-destruct in an orgy of bad programming, shifting schedules and stupid labor policies. Forget your Visigoths and your Huns. We fiddled with the remote while Rome burned. The global village has been sacked.

My friend Jack Mingo, Lord High Nabob of the Couch Potatoes and distinguished co-author of “The Couch Potato Guide to Life,” was one of the first to sense the danger. When the networks began declining five years ago, Mingo warned of what might happen if people watched cable instead of NBC, ABC or CBS.

“I knew the holy trinity was in trouble,” Mingo said recently. “Or should I say the holy Trinitron?”


Mingo, a compulsive punster, added, “But I was just a voice crying in the Wasteland.”

Like Mingo, I have always wanted to mingle with the crowds, to feel that oneness that comes from knowing that there is a vast body of inane cultural experience that gives the melting pot its basic roux.

I hadn’t realized the extent of the devastation until this year’s Academy Awards broadcast. People actually had the nerve to call me in the middle of the show. “Bill, what are you doing calling me now? Don’t you want to see Jodie Foster’s dress fall down?”

“Oh, I’m not watching,” he said. “I’m taping it over last week’s news, which I never watched.”

The next day I said to my friend Kate: “Wasn’t Martin Short terrific when he came out in the same dress as Carrie Fisher?” Her response was like a nightmare. She don’t watch no TV. She don’t know no Martin Short. She only does classics.

Like a lot of people, Kate doesn’t go to movie theaters anymore. She only rents classic movies for her VCR.

“Don’t you want to know what people are into today?” I asked her.

“Well,” she said, “we’ll always have Paris.”

Once, you could count on everyone seeing the latest movies, but with the rise of videos, people stagger their viewing. Just when you’re ready to talk “Rain Man,” your friend is all jazzed about “Bull Durham.”


Last Monday morning, I was depressed. I couldn’t understand why everyone was so cheerful. Finally, I realized that I was the only person who had actually watched the made-for-TV movie about the girl who killed her father, who had been abusing her. Then I watched an hour of news about the hunt for mass-murder suspect Ramon Salcido, the latest findings in the satanic cult/drug ring, the current theories on the rash of missing children and, finally, in sports: George Bush hits a new personal best in horseshoes.

In another time, in another era, everyone would have been depressed. But instead of suffering collectively, I was on a solitary bummer. All the smiley faces around me had taped the evening, then fast-forwarded to the horseshoes story. I was alone in the village, trapped in my own vertical hold.

Once, we all knew where we belonged. Once, on Tuesday evenings at 7:30, our world fell silent as we all stared at 16 black-and-white inches of Uncle Miltie in drag. Once, we all loved Lucy. Once, we could all spell M-O-U-S-E.

Besides destroying our community, the end of network dominance has had other devastating effects on our health and our families.

Jack Mingo traces much of these ill effects to the loss of the commercial break. “Think of all the people watching cable who are developing chronic bladder problems waiting for the commercial,” he said. “And consider how many important human interactions normally take place during those three minutes. There’s enough time to talk about work, chastise a child, have sex. . . .”

Write your network president today and tell him to: “DO SOMETHING! Come up with something people can stand to watch. Start it in September. Make enough episodes to keep it on till June. Show it in the same time slot every week.” Don’t these people know anything about addiction?


It’s time we all join together to stop the devastation of our community. Pop’s Hardware has been replaced by a huge Pick ‘n’ Click. Tiny’s Chicken Shack has been replaced by a fried-chicken syndicate. The new highway is fast-forwarding cars past Main Street. Friends and neighbors, boys and girls in the Peanut Gallery, Ladies and Germs: Save our Global Village!