Thursday, May 06, 2010

Fox Network Schizophrenia - Strictly Business?

It's probably not a big surprise to anyone that The Wet Spots are huge Glee fans. A program about dorky kids at school who wanna sing show tunes? Yeah. It fits.

Whether you dig the show from an aesthetic point of view, you have to admit that it puts an inclusive message of self-acceptance out there. Small-town bigotry and misguided fundamentalist sexual morality are regularly held up for ridicule. Jocks, flamers, cheerleaders, overacheivers and special-ed students all taste triumph and mockery. They all act heroically and selfishly. They get to be real characters rather than mascots.

Glee is a Fox show. And part of a legacy of vaguely subversive entertainment programming from the network. Fox brought the Simpsons to life nearly 20 years ago, along with In Living Colour and X Files. None of these shows were calls to man the barricades, but all pushed the envelope of what was considered too out-there for TV content, and they often addressed American society from a satirical & unsentimental perspective.

Fox News, of course, is all about a perverted, bullying sentimentality: a somewhat hysterical blend of factual reportage, bigoted opinion, and pure paranoid fantasy presented as the 'real' truth. This branch of the network has been expert in branding itself as an earnest crusader for the 'real' patriotic America. (Read white, Christian conservative America.)

Now while I deplore the hate-mongering on Fox News, I believe that white, Christian, conservative America deserves to have a network as much as any other group. I just happen to think that Fox News' editorial line is strictly about business. It is the stance that generates the most profits for them. They saw a way to distinguish themselves from the newsrooms of the other networks, and they took it. It is not an earnest crusade. It is as calculated as the guy who notices that there isn't a coconut flavoured soda on the market yet and creates one and makes a million bucks.

I have a smart friend who runs a chain of comedy clubs. He regularly hires performers whose material is so stupid that I know in my heart there's no way he could possibly like it. Why does he hire them? Because they put asses on seats. I know that Rupert Murdoch is a conservative, but I don't think he believes a fraction of the insanity that spills from the mouths of his talking heads. He's simply too smart. The difference is Murdoch is selling stupid paranoid hate, not stupid laughs. It's reprehensible. And it's just business.

In one episode of Glee, we are introduced to a character's Mum and Dad. They are intolerant, pious small-town douchebags. This is established by making them big fans of Glen Beck. It's cross-promotional synergy for a schizophrenic network that cynically sells 1001 flavours to every appetite.

But damn, Glee is a good show.

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