I Want My HDTV

In the year 2002 or so, everybody in the world has to buy a new, "high definition" television set. This will be the marketing strategy of the next century. Think of the sales figures. Other corporations, you can bet, are watching. Ford's having trouble selling cars? No problem, just replace unleaded gas with high definition gasoline that won't work in the old cars (but it's "really good gas"). Everybody will have to buy a new car. Simple as that. Those marketing gurus haven't hit on anything this big since that stuffed crust pizza. But let's face it, we're just getting what we, the people, want. The public outcry against regular old blurry TV has been so loud that our friends in TV land are going to be heroes for saving our society by bringing us HDTV. Those infomercials are going to be so much better in HDTV, which, we are gleefully told, will look like 35 mm photographs! Far out.Sure, I'm looking forward to being able to count Ted Koppel's nosehairs as much as the next guy, but I can't help but think that TV - even the sorry LDTV we have to put up with - could be a lot better. Let's face it, aside from Seinfeld, TV peaked in the 1950s. I Love Lucy is one of the most popular shows on TV today. It's featured on the Nickelodeon channel, which makes millions by simply replaying old faves like Leave it to Beaver and Mary Tyler Moore.Lots of people had high hopes for TV. It was going to help educate our children, bring us closer together and even bring history as it's being made into our living rooms. Instead, we've got half-hour ads for action figures on Saturday morning (while Big Bird has to go begging for funds), depictions of American culture that cast us as either the bumbling, vile Al Bundy or the depraved villain of the latest "loosely-based-on-a-true-story" TV movie, and as far as getting a view on our world, TV news and other info-tainment programs focus more on the fallen celebrity du jour and stories about puppies than matters of true historical significance, which, it turns out, are big ratings losers.In case you're wondering why it all happened this way, it's simple. Somebody figured out what TV's more lucrative purpose is: selling stuff. While those suckers in other countries like England and France actually force television to serve a public purpose, we've tamed the medium to sell Pepsi. Not that there's anything wrong with Pepsi (it's really good over ice, you know, that kind in the big bags you buy at the store), it's just that TV could sell Pepsi and serve a public purpose, too.And I guess that's what's got me so ticked about this whole HDTV fiasco. I never really wanted to be able to see every pore on Shaquille O'Neal's bald head while he hocks Pepsi, tacos or that crazy new high definition gasoline. I just wanted to see better TV. Nothing, not even HDTV, is going to make Sally Jesse Raphael any more watchable.So here's what I'm proposing. Sometime just before everybody has to throw away their useless old TV, we should all go on strike. Read a book, or a magazine or a newspaper. Listen to the radio. But whatever you do, don't watch your TV. The bottom line is we can't encourage these maniacs; if they succeed in getting everybody to buy new TV's (or fancy adapter boxes) just because they say so, there'll be no stopping them. MBA profs at the country's finest business schools will teach the HDTV case study as the benchmark of American marketing ingenuity. After a month or two, with those corporate bigwigs sweating bullets, we'll provide them with a list of our demands, which should include but not be limited to: full funding for public broadcasting; new cable channels allowed only if there's anything worthwhile to put on them; public floggings for any talking head using "trial of the century" and "O.J. Simpson" in the same sentence; free air time for political candidates; an end to all that cheesy chit-chat on the evening news; and, yes, low definition TV for anybody who doesn't want to buy one of them fancy, new HDTVs.

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