Saturday, September 24, 2011

TV is Getting Dirty (and I'm getting to be an old fogey)

Soaps are coming to an end. ABC even cancelled All My Children. In its place, a cooking show.

I suppose it's a little silly to feel a bittersweet twinge at the thought. I've never really been in to soaps, never really watched them, not the daytime ones anyway. It wasn't out of snobbery or anything; I was into other things. That didn't mean I was ignorant of them. In one of my early jobs post-college, a producer for the studio where I worked was obsessed with Days of Our Lives, and that's what the lunch room TV was tuned to, end. of. discussion. Layne was this brilliant producer, organized and charismatic, who had gorgeous girl next door looks and a tomboy personality. We had so much fun at that job, the young crew of us. Inside jokes, tons of creative and diverse work, and a really neat end result. I kind of knew at the time it was a good gig, but only now, twenty years later, do I really know how amazing and blessed that time was. It's fun to remember. Those soaps, they make me remember. Days of Our Lives, that one in particular, the theme song comes on and I'm back in the lunchroom arguing over the merits of crackers versus bread, while Layne's eyes crinkle and she wins the argument because that's how it worked there and then. But later we will leave little packets of crackers all over her office, and she'll shriek and laugh and give us the point but then will tell us to clean it up.

It was fun.

There was always a lot of fun around -- and made of -- soap operas. Haven't they been part of our lives? (Punny ha ha.)

Don't we all think of Ridge and Thorn as male soap opera character's names? Don't we joke about someone's mother's sister's husband's cousin who came back from the dead, twice, and a coma, once, only to choke on a fish bone at her 10th wedding? Don't we all use "soap opera" as a common adverb and adjective?

It's really about the end of a way of life, and taste in entertainment.

It's good and bad.

Maybe it's hitting me more because of other losses. Maybe it's my age, and the way time and change has seemed to speed up. It feels as if there is not constant any longer, except--as the saying goes--death and taxes. The point of that is really that certain good or comforting touchpoints are dynamic, not static.

In some corner of my mind, it was comforting to know that Susan Lucci as Erica Kane was still on TV doing the same thing on the same show as ten years, twenty years ago and beyond.

On the one hand, I'm keeping up with the times just fine. I know social media! I have the new Facebook! I have an iPhone! I know how to connect a bluetooth! I'm digital, connected, modernized, and up-to-date. I wear polish on my toe nails that is a color off the red or pink color wheel. I've gone to Mermaid! And Midnight! I'm modern!

On the other hand, I feel what I can't help but call fogeyness creep in. What do you mean iPhone 5, what's wrong with this 3 that I got about 10 seconds ago? What do you mean iPad, what's wrong with this phone or my laptop? Books on electronic devices? Does it come with a "smell the new pages" app? New big chain stores? Forget you, I'm sticking to as many local mom and pop as I can.Upgrade my appliances? No way. I bought this house because it still had a dial A/C control; I hate computer panel controls on appliances. They're designed to break after 9.8 years.

Once upon a time things were designed to last a lifetime: houses, appliances, cars, jobs, communities, families...and now a five year plan is long term.

We used to gauge time on a life line. Now we are in what I call tech time, where two years is long and old. We're off slow paced baseball minutes and in to hockey minutes, dizzy speed. My eyes can barely follow the action.

And I'm becoming reluctant to even try to keep up -- why should I?

Me? I'll schedule in lazy Sunday afternoons where we just sit on the back patio and watch the kids play. Remember kid time? When a week felt like forever? I want to feel time drag again.

Watching the kids, though, reminds me why we live in a neighborhood stuck in 1968 and why it feels so precious: kids running the neighborhood is also a passing way of life. I'm not at all ashamed that my daughter is in late elementary school and is struggling to type on a computer. I'm not worried that she's better at climbing trees than fooling with technology. It doesn't bother her, either, or at least not enough to change her ways. I want her to remember simple days and time that drags. I want her to have a time to look back on, a feeling she can pull up and experience in memory, of when Saturday felt like an age, and you could run 100 different lifetimes of games and play within it. I want her to have that, especially when time feels too short to fit in all that needs doing.

I want her to have something that lasts, and I'd love to provide a touchstone for her to bring it all back, like coming to the home she grew up in. The way you can smell vanilla and sugar and remember your grandmother baking pie crust leftover popovers for you.

That's unlikely, though.

So while I'd like to turn around and find one thing still there tomorrow that was here today--something other than death and taxes--that's unlikely too. It really is the intangibles, in the end. It's just nice to have those tangibles, like a soap opera, to remind us. I'll hear the theme of Days of Our Lives and remember Layne, that job, and that time vividly. So long as that show was on, I could turn it on, see the same characters, and in some way, it felt as if that time was still there. It kept it real.

But that time ended, and so are soaps. Time doesn't drag anymore, but it does seem to drag me these days.

So I tell myself, as I'm dragged: Live life at your own pace. Pay attention to what's wonderful now. Quit missing here for trying to figure out where there is going to be. What matters is this minute, not just what's hot tomorrow. Enjoy this moment, log it into memory, without always planning and worrying for the next thing.

At least sometimes.

Bye soaps, and thanks for all the fun and funny you provided. Without you, TV will be a little dirtier, and we'll archive one more tradition.

1 comment:

Tinu said...

It's definitely an unsettling feeling, watching the world speed up while you get to the part of life where you're supposed to be enjoying a bit of slow down.

For several generations, the big changes also went slower - TV, cable TV the microwave, punk rock, hip-hop.

And we got the internet, which came with hundreds of changes in the way we live daily life, that also cascaded and exploded into several areas at once, multiple times.

Our parents had to deal with losing vinyl to CDs in their prime. We went from CDs, to mp3s offline, to mp3s online, to streaming, in about the same time period.

Then we had to deal with the same changes in multiple mediums - books changing, television, newspapers, publishing, journalism, marketing, all at the same time.

It's not just us being foegies, it's the world getting faster *at a faster pace*. So it's not just you if that makes you feel any better.