Idol Chatter

You may not think of yourself as a rebel, but if you’re watching TV this week, you’re working against the efforts of Robert Kesten and his team at the TV-Turnoff Network, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that’s behind “Turn Off Your TV Week,” which is going on this week. Citing stats and quotes from a wide array of sources, the organization encourages parents to restrict television viewing for their kids, citing research that television is responsible for everything from child obesity to limiting intelligence potential.

The movement has won support and the endorsement of dozens of powerful organizations, such as the American Medical Association, National Education Association, National Medical Association, and literacy groups such as Reading Is Fundamental.

T.S. Eliot, poet and author, once opined, “The remarkable thing about television is that it permits several million people to laugh at the same joke and still feel lonely.”

From the floor of the Senate, these words rang out: “They have certainly won my support and my hearty endorsement. Hallelujah! Turn off that TV… I do want to emphatically stress that there is much more to life than the boring, degrading, demeaning fare on the boob tube. I urge the American people to use this week to break your addiction to television. Just say no! As the TV-Turnoff Network urges, ‘Turn off TV, turn on life.’” –Senator Byrd, D-West Virginia.

The movement has also garnered support from those who’ve profited from the dreaded TV, including CNN/TBS’s Ted Turner, who once said, “TV is the single most significant factor contributing to violence in America.”

Perhaps you’re concerned that American children may spend more time in front of the television than in school this year. Perhaps it strikes you as odd that 40% of Americans regularly watch television during dinner. Perhaps you’d like to reflect more about this…

…but “24” is coming on, then the Clippers, the news, Leno, Conan. I gotta go. Tomorrow comes early!

Paul Sharrat had no luck contacting the late Princess Diana three years ago in a televised séance—well, no luck in the sense that Di refused to speak for the cameras. Sharrat did make some $7 million from viewers willing to pony up a $14.95 pay-per-view fee. That kind of luck encouraged Sharrat to try again. Last night, psychics gathered at John Lennon’s favorite New York restaurant in an attempt to reach out to the former Beatle, as cameras focused on the Strawberry Fields memorial in Manhattan’s Central Park and other Lennon sites.

One participant says he has “no doubt” he heard Lennon break through on one participant’s microphone to call for world peace. Using the phenomenon the psychics call Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP), Lennon said, “Peace. The message is peace,” the psychics claim.

Maybe, as he did in life, Lennon was asking to be left in peace. Lennon himself once told Newsweek magazine that he and wife Yoko Ono had tried to communicate with the dead via séance, but today Yoko’s spokesman called the show “tacky.” Sharrat, who calls himself a “dyed-in-the-wool skeptic by nature” declared himself “amazed”—perhaps that Lennon would show for only 9.95 per viewer when Di demurred at $14.95.

For fans of “Crossing Jordan” (a CSI-meets-grown up-Nancy Drew weekly drama), the tantalizing question on Sunday night’s episode was: Who Would Kill a Saint? A woman’s body–wearing a silver cross–is discovered buried in a forest. As the crime-scene photographer leans in to take her photo, he suddenly steps back and makes the sign of the cross. In a surprising revelation, the photographer identifies the dead woman as a member of his church, a woman “touched by God” and possessing the gift of raising the dead to life.

As Jordan Cavanaugh investigates the murder, a motley crew of characters are introduced: (a) A teenage boy who “dies” after being hit by a car and who “comes back to life” 20 days after Isabel prays for him; (b) a Vatican priest with diplomatic immunity who is caught in Isabel’s apartment looking for evidence of sainthood; and (c) an embittered father who questions his faith after his daughter dies.

Despite the religious premise, the writers of the rationale-centered show aimed to please the non-religious audience at the expense of the religious among us. In subtle twists, Isabel’s “gift” and the Vatican priest’s credibility are both chipped away. Crackpot theorist and forensics expert Nigel excitedly explains how the teen boy never really died (due to a combination of flat-fronted car impact and sub-zero weather)–only to discover the boy overhearing his theory and losing faith in Isabel. While the Vatican priest’s investigation is noble, his motives are questioned when he is discovered having “broken” into Isabel’s apartment in the middle of the night and rummaging for evidence in her underwear drawer. Nigel also questions whether the priest killed Isabel in order to make her a legend and propel the Vatican into national news.

While the embittered father’s plotline is the most convincing, his pain most palpable, the discovery of his murderous crime cements the destruction of any religious audience’s credibility. The religious are caricatured and stripped down: A boy of blind faith believes too readily in miracles and loses his faith at the first hint of science, a Vatican priest is questioned as being sneaky and evasive, and a father’s rage is channeled into committing the ultimate sin of murder.

Science is exalted and ultimately overtakes faith, leaving it stale, clichéd, and unbelievable.

Can lifelong friendships be torn apart by money when some of your friends have lots of it but others don’t? Are the age old proverbs “Money is the root of all evil” and “Money can’t buy happiness” actually true? Jennifer Aniston’s latest movie, “Friends With Money”–if you believe all the commercials and reviews out there–is supposed to ask those exact questions. The movie follows the lives of four women in Los Angeles who navigate their relationships with each other, with the men in their lives, and with money. Olivia ( Aniston) is a former schoolteacher who smokes pot, dates the wrong men, and scrubs people’s toilets for a living, while her three best friends all have successful careers, affluent lifestyles, and–on the surface–happy families. The movie is slightly unpredictable–the humor comes out of the most unlikely moments–and there are some brilliant performances to be enjoyed ( Frances Mc Dormand in particular), yet in many ways, “Friends with Money” doesn’t quite, well, pay off in the end.

While watching these four women talk… and talk… and talk… about how unhappy they are, I slowly began to realize that “Friends With Money” is not about money at all. Not really. The root of their unhappiness–with jobs, with spouses, with themselves–is directly linked to the lies they have been telling themselves for years. Christine (Catherine Keener) lies to herself abut many things, including that her husband is a swell guy and that she and her husband’s lavish lifestyle in the form of a remodeling project is not impacting their neighbors’ lives. Fashion designer Jane (McDormand) lies to herself about why she is depressed and hasn’t washed he hair in months , while her husband lies to himself about not really being gay. Meanwhile, Franny (Joan Cusack), who is the richest of the friends, lies to herself every time she doesn’t tell her husband that she thinks he is being too extravagant in the way he spends their money on their child.

And then there’s Olivia. She lies to herself by telling herself it’s easier, and better, to not care about anything.

By the end of the film, I wasn’t quite sure what the director wanted me to take away from this story, because there was no real resolution to the plot. But I will say that in spite of the movie’s flaws, I liked this examination of what causes the spiritual disconnect inside of ourselves. I just wish that sometimes Hollywood would realize that when it comes to storytelling, it is not always enough to raise important questions, but is also necessary to give some glimpses at some possible solutions as well.

Previous Posts