Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cultural Prescience: Television as Crystal Ball

Television, in the modern day and age, has become little more than a spectator sport. The lucky few chosen at random to participate, the countless masses laughing at their follies, and the producers heightening reality as far as possible—so much so as to make the real unreal—are all analogous to gladiatorial sports in ancient Rome. Reality TV and the paparazzi have made normal people into extraordinary brutes, cast into unbelievable situations and forced to react for the cameras. A simple look into the E! reality show “Bridalplasty” from a few years back puts our horrific cultural values on shocking display.

As an intern, one of my main duties at the TCU Press from day one has been proofreading Dan Jenkins’ and Bud Shrake’s Limo, a 1976 novel that predicts with incredible precision (and utter hilarity) the future state of television programming.

Through the eyes of Frank Mallory, a TV producer, the reader is taken through several satiric situations—including a mid-morning drag race—that only serve to highlight the eventual unreality of “Just Up The Street,” a three-hour prime-time program that exists solely at the whim of the Big Guy (read: executive/Frank’s boss). In contrasting Frank’s personal life with his professional struggles, Jenkins and Shrake place a lens firmly into the entertainment mores of the 21st century.

In reading this book, I was struck by the rich narrative, the (often hysterical) dialogue, and the believable characters’ interactions, culminating in a climax that I not only wanted to read, but had fun experiencing. Every misstep (or correct step) was a joy to see; Jenkins and Shrake truly come into their element. Though the book' s diction is a bit dated—“groovy” and “pad” are peppered through the work with surprising abandon—that aging just exacerbates how spot-on (and early) Jenkins and Shrake were in their prediction.  Overall, this is a book I’d definitely recommend, and I don’t recommend books lightly. Pick up a copy when you can.

by Luke Miller, intern

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