Hype around a new summer replacement show called The Days attracted me to the interesting storyline, so I watched the first twenty minutes of the show. Promoted as unique, edge, and unexplored, the show was disturbingly flat. The failure caused me to reflect on hyperbole, and its consequences for contemporary panic culture.
Consider this review from Zap2It.com (A Tribune Media Service), “‘The Days’ Gets Chance To Shine”:
Booked for a six-week test run, “The Days” is a bold attempt by creator John Scott Shepherd (“Life or Something Like It”) and executive producers Mike Tollin and Brian Robbins (“Smallville,” “One Tree Hill”) to revisit a series format that has been all but abandoned by the Big Four networks: a show with a contemporary, two-parent family at its center. That notion may sound shockingly retro to some network programmers, but Shepherd says he thinks the format still has a lot of unexplored territory to offer.
“You know, between ‘7th Heaven’ and ‘American Beauty’ there’s quite a bit of space, and we’re trying to stake a claim to part of it in terms of how we show real life,” he says. “We deal with flawed but loving family members who are not perfect, as well as an imperfect marriage. The parents on our show genuinely want to do right by their kids, but they also have their own lives. It’s what we’re calling the ‘contemporary traditional family,’ which we’ve almost never seen on TV, where you have two parents on a first marriage with multiple kids.
“We’re pushing the edges here in many respects and there are a lot of red flags that normally could be going up, but everyone is saying, no, this is the show we want to do.”
What could be edgier than American Beauty? Any show that claims “new territory” for average, middle-America in the television format is making a huge and interesting claim.
Predictably, the show failed to deliver. Technically, the only new territory I reached was an unexplored space of milquetoast boredom. Two years ago, we seemed to be heading toward a retro-prep period in both politics and fashion. The whole khaki and Izod-look of Bush II’s yuppie days started to resurface here and there. What the Krokers call the “panic culture” of “The Reagan Cold War Era” terrifies me. We don’t have a cold war on terrah; we have a hot war on terrah, but the Cold War panic is everywhere and we each have our own little red buttons — be it mace spray, duct tape, or knee-jerk jingoism that makes some people pull the Republican lever in the voting booth.
From Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, ‘Fashion Holograms in BODY INVADERS: panic sex in America, 1987, edited and introduced by Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, p.45. Ripped from Literary/aesthetic Cliche-probes in The American Classroom-Without-Walls:
In a postmodern culture typified by the disappearance of the Real and by the suffocation of natural contexts, fashion provides *aesthetic holograms* as moveable texts for the general economy of excess. Indeed, if fashion cycles now appear to oscillate with greater and greater speed, frenzy and intensity of circulation of all the signs, that is because fashion, in an era when the body is the inscribed surface of events, is like Brownian motion in physics: the greater the velocity and circulation of its surface features, the greater the internal movement towards stasis, immobility, and inertia. An entire postmodern scene, therefore, brought under the double sign of culture where, as Baudrillard has hinted, the secret of fashion is to introduce the *appearance* of radical novelty, while maintaining the *reality* of no substantial change. Or is it the opposite? Not fashion as a referent of the third (simulational) order of the real, but as itself the spectacular sign of a parasitical culture which, always anyway excessive, disaccumulative, and sacrificial, is drawn inexorably towards the ecstasy of catastrophe.
See, when the “panic culture” hits what we wear and what we watch on television outside of Fox News, I’m bored into scaredom. Or scared into boredom. It’s that stultifying, lethargic state of the overwhelming nothingness of been-there-done-that postmodernity where even nothing new is new.
From Ctheory, “Being Nothing: George W. Bush as Presidential Simulacrum” by Carol V. Hamilton:
One might speculate that a flat personality like that. . .of George W. Bush, is inherently more in accord with the flatness of the television or computer screen and thus transmits smoothly and consistently. By contrast, perhaps, a complex, three-dimensional personality, full of contradictions, corners, and real history is difficult to reduce to a flat surface. Not all politicians, however, are inherently flat. John Kerry, for example, has posed a problem for the sound-bite insights of television pundits. How could anyone be both a decorated war hero and a longhaired protestor? A novel could delicately delineate such a transformation (think of Lord Jim or Crime and Punishment) but television must flatten it into “flip-flopping.” The obviously literate Kerry, who speaks in complex sentences and uses “big words,” has been compensating for these deficiencies by emphasizing his athleticism and military experience. He advertises himself as “the real deal.”
But in the hyperreal United States, where “reality TV” has usurped reality itself, the problematic status of “the real” is precisely the issue.
Unfortunately, while Bush might simply simulate a president, his simulations have real world results that affect millions of lives in profound and deadly ways. Now, let’s not conflate “The Days” with..well..the days. But as a sign of the times, this one friggen’ scares me.
Reading is “Fun”damental:
Kroker on the Remake Millenium Mediamatic.com on Kroker’s book, The Possessed Individual
A little bit on The Panic Encyclopedia
Stephen Pfohl has a homepage! Dood!