There are a few activities that have occurred over the past several millennia that, one by one, devolved into the great time-suck we now know as TV. For the benefit of science and history, here they are.
1. Staring at Nature Stuff. Sunrises, bears goring coyotes, sunsets, bunny-shaped cumulus cloud formations, palm trees swaying in the wind, snow falling onto bears as they gore coyotes. Nature was the first TV.
2. Starting at Each Other. This lasted for about two weeks. Ratings were abysmal. Click.
3. Fire Gazing. Eventually, some brainiac hominid figured out fire. It was a big, big hit, and sponsored by the wood industry. But problems arose. Knuckle-dragging cave-teens were known to veg out to fire long after their cave-parents went to bed, causing parents much concern. Nature-Staring purists grew outraged, blaming this man-made phenom on the decline of the family unit.
4. Star Gazing. Late-night entertainment ratings wars soon brewed between Fire Gazing and Star Gazing. People would wait for hours for the star and constellation channels to come on. Cloudy nights were met with chagrin. And fire. But clear nights would result in story telling, and making up crap like, “Look kids, that obtuse, dented half-parallelogram is an archer!” This is when children began to mistrust authority.
5. Ridiculously Enormous Slave-Built Structure Construction Watching. Gigantic pyramid, sphinx and tower construction watching was in fashion for a while, sometimes holding viewer’s attention for over a century, with the aristocracy sitting on hard benches, riveted by the site one of these big-budget edifices getting built.
6. Orator and Philosopher Watching. These trouble-making misfits caused great consternation among the dumb-dumb class, and were, over time, given the boot. No shocker there. Understanding their mind-bending thoughts was deemed too much work, so that by the time Nietzsche rolled around, he had a very slim chance at being a pop star or having has face put on t-shirts.
7. Watching Animals Maiming Other Living Creatures in a Ring. This mindless entertainment activity was popularized by Romans, who put camels and elephants and lions and peacocks and minimum wage workers in a ring, just to see what *wink* would happen, which was pure entertainment genius. This is where the pratfall and the chase scene was born. The ratings were huge. It was a smash hit.
8. Observing Minstrels, Jesters, Lute Players and Harlequins. Kings and queens would employ these hack entertainers as a diversion from their traditional peasant beheadings and pillages and turkey leg feasts. Never, in the history of civilization, was there such a colossal waste of gay and merry fabric.
9. The Reading of Gigantic Books. Huge books, with soooooooo many taxing, soul-sucking words began to flood the market. They could take months to finish. And without employing sophisticated yet catchy entertainment devices like explosions, hilarious talking animals and bank heists, this medium was doomed. Moreover, an insidious insistence on b.s. like “story” and “character” and “plot”, makes it no wonder that the human attention span eventually said “enough!” to gigantic books.
10. The Three Stooges. What could be better than watching dumb guys whacking each other with frying pans? Nothing. Finally, after this technological evolutionary breakthrough, involving television could be born.
Television can be cool. And fun. And awesome. But according to the Nielsen Company, the average American watches about 5 hours of TV each day. That’s 140 hours per month. That’s 7o days every year. This will melt brains.
Let’s be careful out there.