TEXT OF COMMENTARY
KAI RYSSDAL: The big TV networks spent the week pitching their fall schedules to advertisers. Viewers will be fed a diet of crime dramas and science fiction thrillers. Some reality shows and a couple of sitcoms. But commentator and actor Mike Farrell says televison isn’t taking advantage of some very real material.
MIKE FARRELL: I was lucky to be a part of TV’S M_A_S_H, a show that made hundreds of millions of dollars for 20th Century Fox and CBS while exposing the horror of war through the stories of war in Korea. But of course, as everyone understood, we were really talking about war in Vietnam and elsewhere.
So what’s happened to television? Where are today’s Gene Reynolds and Larry Gelbarts? Where are people of principle willing to use their creative talents to remind us that blood is not spilled without cost?
Today, as bodies are rent asunder in Iraq and our wounded lie in their own waste in veterans’ hospitals, where are the satirists and dramatists willing to vent their outrage as the young fight and die for a political agenda dressed in lies about impending mushroom clouds?
Why is the tube reduced to telling us that “reality” is needy people humiliating themselves to become stars?
Clearly, it’s about money. Cable made such an incursion that network executives have abdicated all responsibility to their audience.
But it comes at a cost. Billions of dollars that could be better spent are wasted in Iraq, devastating a centuries-old region that once, it’s said, contained the Garden of Eden, while more billions are wasted at home producing mindless television that dumbs down the audience, destroying its ability to tell entertainment from insult.
The few gems that remain — bless them for persevering — only remind us of what’s been lost.
So how do we get it back?
Well, turn the tube off in disgust. Create panic in the suites. Throw the money-changers out of the temple, Again. Let talent and principle resuscitate the most powerful technology ever developed with stories that enoble and inspire.
There was once a M_A_S_H. There can be again.
RYSSDAL: Actor and activist Mike Farrell is the author of “Just Call Me Mike” . . . his memoir.
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