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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Wed, 4 Dec 96 23:13:57 -0800
Subject: Television Ends
[You've got a choice on this one. Laugh or cry... -psl]
NEW YORK--It was the end of an era in American entertainment Monday, as
the 55-year history of television came to a close.
Though the decision to stop transmitting has come as a shock to U.S.
viewers, whose reactions have ranged from wild panic to profound grief,
television industry insiders say it was an idea whose time had come.
"It's been great producing shows over the years, and we are very grateful
for all the hours the fans have spent watching. But we just feel we've taken
the medium as far as it can go," NBC president William Schallert said.
"Anything more would just become a tired rehash of old ideas. We'd like TV
to be remembered as something better than that."
At 9:17 p.m. EST, millions of Americans watched in horror as their
favorite programs--including Melrose Place, Murphy Brown and Monday Night
Football--were cut off by hissing white noise and static on their TV
screens. While many sat in front for hours, staring in slack-jawed
disbelief, others took to rioting in the streets, looting stores and
In Los Angeles, a violent mob of 25,000 has been rioting nonstop since
Monday night, setting autos aflame and terrorizing electronics repair
stores. Marching through the streets with their no-longer-functioning TVs
skewered at the ends of long poles, the L.A. rioters have captured many of
these electronics stores' employees, angrily demanding they "fix" the
defunct sets, savagely beating them when they are inevitably unable to do
Despite the public's violent reaction, network executives stand by their
decision. "Sure, I suppose we could have kept it up indefinitely, but what
would have been the point?" said Tony Dow, director of programming for the
WB Network. "Last week, we aired an episode of Moesha where Mo was too
embarrassed to wear her glasses on a big date, so she went without them and
bumped into lots of things. Do you have any idea how many times a sitcom
has used that premise? I mean, give me a break."
"No... tee... VEEEEEE..." droned Knoxville, TN, dry cleaner Dave
Benedict, drooling heavily as he repeatedly pointed and clicked his
now-obsolete remote control at the blank screen of his Sony Trinitron.
"Where... Frasier?... can't see... Frasier..." Benedict has remained in
such a state for the last 72 hours, gripping the arms of his recliner,
surrounded by empty soda cans and snack-chip bags, and waist deep in his
own feces and urine.
In addition to the shut-down of programming by the major broadcasting
networks, all cable television companies, as well as the videocassette
market, have closed shop as well.
"Now that TV is over, I suppose we could still continue our video-
rental business. But if you think about it, it's so much less enjoyable to
watch films on the small screen than it is to see them in theaters,"
Blockbuster Video CEO Wayne Huizenga said. "There's just no substitute for
the old-time Hollywood magic of the larger-than-life movie-theater
experience. I don't think people would be interested."
"I talked to my wife for four hours last night," said Denver resident
Charles Bain. "I got home from work, she started talking. I turned on the
TV: Nothing! Nowhere to go, nothing to do but relate to her and the
"AIIIIIEEEEE!!" Bain added, diving headfirst through a plate-glass
window to his death.
Companies traditionally heavily reliant on TV advertising, such as
Microsoft, Reebok, Chrysler and Gold Bond Medicated Powder, have reacted
swiftly to news of the shutdown, transferring their commercials to "Burma
Shave"-style sequential roadside signs; hand-held placards; and travelling
circus sideshow-based promotions.
Actors left jobless by television's demise have also been forced to
make the transition to post-TV America, albeit less smoothly. Though some
are doing dinner theater, most television actors have returned to their
pre-TV careers as waiters and waitresses. Some, like former TV superstar
Candace Bergen--who recently legally changed her name to Murphy Brown in
hopes of retaining celebrity status--have launched hastily arranged touring
versions of their former shows, performing old episodes live in malls and
department-store parking lots throughout the countryside.
"Bring the kids down to see Murphy Brown--Live On Stage, three nights
only, at the Omaha Val-U-Sav through Saturday," a tired-looking Brown
exhorted a Nebraska crowd. "And be sure not to miss Murphy In Song, a medley
of your favorite showtunes, sung by me, Murphy Brown herself, immediately
before and after the show! Showtimes are 7:30, 8:15 and 8:45, three shows
"I dance too!" she added.
Despite throwing nearly every aspect of American society into chaos
with their decision, television executives remain optimistic about the
"Television was a nice enough medium, but it always fell flat compared
to other means of expression: the power of the written word, the magic of
painting and the thrill of community-based quilting bees," Viacom's Eileen
Brennan said. "We tried to take it far, but compared to those things, I
think it's obvious that TV never stood a chance."
Looking ahead, former NBC president Brandon Tartikoff struck a note of
hope. "We feel that with television over, the American people will waste no
time returning to the more productive hobbies they have always preferred,
such as nature hiking, family piano-parlor sing-a-longs and open mike poetry
readings," Tartikoff said. "There's only so much revenue that can be
generated spooning pre-adolescent pixilated pablum to the lowest common
demographic denominator. In retrospect, we're glad we quit while we were
ahead. I think it's pretty obvious the American consumers felt they deserved
© 1996 Peter Langston