Little People Working on Television
Television has improved, three words I have never been more surprised to acknowledge in this life. I have a deep, searing contempt for an industry ethos that came up with a show like Hogan’s Heroes, and the US television journalism corps (print was no better) remains eternally un-forgiven for the hit job it gleefully performed on Al Gore in 1999 that foisted the worst President of all time on us. It’s unfortunate I can’t comprehend the “awe-inspiring” (aimai) posts of Amanda Marcotte on Madmen, dramatic television does nothing for me, but as the last five years have flipped by I find myself watching more and more television, there’s excellent natural sciences and most all working Americans are performing honest work in the screens, the little people and their careers at the center of attention in American life. About god damn time.
It’s hard to say, but I’d guess The Cooking Channel has led the charge in showcasing little people’s careers, followed by the Canadian How It’s Made and the History Channel’s Modern Marvels (there’s very little actual history on the History Channel but never mind, this is America, right?). Julia Child was breaking paths in televised cooking 20 years before, of course, but when an entire channel is devoted to preparing food it’s just inevitable the genre morphed out of specialty chefs to everyday working Americans, some of whom worked so hard they made it onto the channel as cooks with shows, others highlighted all the time as they bust tail in their restaurants (Diners and Dives).
Surely no little people have been more successful given the chance to showcase what they have than the Tuttles of Orange County Choppers, one of the assembly shows I often like to watch, along with Overhauled. People have varying opinions on the efficacy of shouting at each other to get things done but it’s completely unsurprising to me, my family was that way and I like the Tuttles, who recently had a show where they donated $250,000 in cash and bikes for military families.
The elements and components of modern life are the main focus of How It’s Made and Modern Marvels, but there’s still real human beings at every step of the way whether the shows admit it or not. How it’s made is often with backbreaking repetitive labor in a metal shop, television won’t come right out and say so, but at least the reality of working people’s lives is right there.
The construction/carpenter shows are many on PBS and the Home and Garden Channel, my personal favorite Holmes on Homes, this hero contractor guy rescues poor folks who have been screwed by unscrupulous contractor crooks, of which the industry has far too many. I think there’s a sewing show, and although it seems impossible to make a show about knitting it could easily happen, I don’t like watching fishing but if dudes flicking lures around can make it to television then knitting will one day have a place.
Natural sciences are represented on television with some of the most beautiful production around in astronomy and life sciences, and there’s even The Science Channel now. I don’t watch much of the Science Channel, but at least it’s good to know it’s there if nothing else is on, and I’ve enjoyed countless hours with the geology and astronomy shows. Anti-intellectualism has a huge nasty streak in American culture and my heart rejoices to see such hard science all over television in the 21st century.
Many would emphatically state little people television is totally represented by the amateur entertainment shows like American Idol or the reality stuff like The Great Race, and they’d be right, but it’s not Americans working, entertainment does very little for me. I haven’t seen one episode of American Idol and I doubt I ever will, no disrespect in the least, I’m just not wired for it.
Are there tangible political implications that can help Democrats and liberals with all these television shows demonstrating such hard work and good science? Outwardly, no, of course the shows never make overt political points or stances, but still…average Americans working in their careers, their struggles and triumphs consistently broadcast, can only be a good thing for the Republic, while also being enjoyable to watch. The new solid science may in fact be the greatest contribution, Bushian anti-intellectualism has hammered the United States.
Congratulations, television, you’ve got me watching again, you’ve come a long, long way from Dallas and I Dream of Jeannie.