We are the people – no, not of the book – but of the “here and now.” It stands to reason. The past recedes quickly – who cares that a mere 48 years ago we weren’t ruling over two million Palestinians who don’t want us here? And the future is uncertain and unknown, que sera sera, so let’s have fun while we still can.
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As to the most readily available way to have some fun, or at least pass some time while we’re not quite aware of it slipping away, we have television. But, as I’ve frequently written here before, it is not even TV anymore. At least, not the one we became accustomed to. I’ve been searching for an acronym for what we have on our hands and in front of our eyes in TV’s stead, and have come up with PMS. Yes, I know that’s been taken (“a varied collection of physical and emotional symptoms during part of a woman’s menstrual cycle”), and I’ll come to that meaning in due course. But for now I’d like it to refer to a Personal Mobile Screen, the easiest way to sample audio and visual information.
In the end, it is all about information, which is knowledge, which eventually can become power. To put things into perspective, here are some quotes from the ancient past of TV, as formulated in a 1958 convention speech by Edward R. Murrow, the news anchor who had previously vanquished Senator Joseph McCarthy (actually, McCarthy sort of self-destructed, but that’s another matter).
These words are 57 years old and yet, how topically relevant they feel: “We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information. Our mass media reflect this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.
“I do not advocate that we turn television into a 27-inch wailing wall, where longhairs constantly moan about the state of our culture and our defense,” continued Murrow. “But I would just like to see it reflect occasionally the hard, unyielding realities of the world in which we live ... To those who say people wouldn’t look; they wouldn’t be interested; they’re too complacent, indifferent and insulated, I can only reply: There is, in one reporter’s opinion, considerable evidence against that contention. But even if they are right, what have they got to lose? Because if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost.
“This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and even it can inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it’s nothing but wires and lights in a box.”
Nowadays, it’s not a box but a tablet, and mostly it really is nothing but that. But because it’s a wireless box, it allows the holder to tap into places where one can partake of some “unyielding realities of the world in which we live” at will, and not be dependent on the diet and schedule of a particular network or channel. Even more important, one can have it for free.
The innuendo is intentional
I’m prolonging this preamble because the TV show I want to draw your attention to is the kind that makes your TV or PMS more than wires in a box (to my mind at least; I’m not sure Murrow would have concurred). It’s a comedy sketch series conceived, produced and written by one hell of a talented young woman (with an equally talented staff), eponymously titled “Inside Amy Schumer” (the innuendo is intentional) and broadcast in the United States by Comedy Central. The third season is airing there and a fourth has already been commissioned.
One of the points I’ve previously quoted here (not my original idea, alas) is that the most valid and valuable TV content being made in recent years has not been by the “serious” side of “infotainment” (information contaminated by entertainment and vice versa) – i.e., news and documentaries – but by the flippant and irreverent side of it: the shows by Jon Stewart, John Oliver and Stephen Colbert.
But they all have a current-events obligation to themselves and their viewers: they deal with issues that matter, and politics both geo- and “theo-”. Schumer’s value is that, while being entertaining – like the one and only Louis C.K., in some ways – she also tries to touch upon the most basic elements of our lives and relationships with each other – but on the most close, personal, irreverent and even intimate level.
Sadly, none of the local providers – HOT, Yes, or the state broadcasters – carry her offerings. Don’t despair: Her comedy show has its own website and you can watch it online, once you’ve registered with one of many Internet TV content providers. This entails providing your credit card data, but you can then watch video clips from the show for free. And the best of them are shared on Facebook and uploaded to YouTube anyway, and deservedly go viral.
Which brings me back to my PMS acronym. In one recent video, the fair-skinned, blonde Schumer, with her sunny disposition, plays a combat instructor who is training young men in the art of “female emotional combat”: one male trainee faces a female combatant on the training mat. The scenario a black-clad Schumer outlines, pacing around, has the woman complaining over dinner about his munching, while he suspects that she is in the throes of PMS. She complains, he apologizes and mentions her assumed “state” – whereupon she attacks him with a knife. Schumer overpowers her, informs her male trainee, “You are dead,” and draws conclusions for all. Another male-female emotional physical skirmish eventually draws the moral, “Women can’t deny the authority of therapy and/or Oprah.”
Another clip that went viral was one that enlisted Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey and Patricia Arquette to discuss the “f***ability” value of women in movies and television. To cut a long column short, do yourself a favor: Google “Inside Amy Schumer” and watch for yourself. It does illuminate and even inspire, and you’ll have a lot of fun while you’re at it. Who could ask for anything more?