Daytime TV wasteland

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(Host) Commentator Willem Lange recently had an enforced opportunity to watch daytime television, and he thinks he’s found the reason for the cultural and moral tailspin of the United States.

(Lange) About a year ago I had a hip joint replaced. The ensuing weeks passed slowly. I still had lots to do. The stack of papers in my to-do box shrank to less than a foot high.

I couldn’t spend long in my office chair, so I took breaks to nap or read. I tackled the books on the night stand. One day I picked up the television control on Mother’s side of the bed.

Within an hour I was thinking, “Is this what everybody at home is exposed to daily?” I tried to call Pat Robertson, to tell him I’d found the reason for the decline of American culture. But his number was unlisted.

The morning opens with yesterday’s news. Two pleasant kids read it enthusiastically, and then swap comments about the day’s amazing weather: “It’s incredible, but today’s weather will be average for this time of year!” There’s a spate of public service ads. After a couple of days of them, nobody would try to beat a train to a crossing or receive his Social Security checks by mail.

The kids are replaced by Matt and Katie in New York City. Tourists stand outside and wave signs for the folks back home. The hosts chat briefly with the hooting crowd, talk with authors plugging books, and ask dumb questions of survivors — what I call Mary Todd Lincoln interviews.

And so it goes the rest of the morning. I could have switched to PBS, where there are good cartoons addressing children’s concerns, but I’d still have been watching stuff aimed at the second-grade level. So I read instead, saving myself for the afternoon soap operas.

Named for their plots’ similarity to the simplistic ones of real opera, and sponsored by cleansing agents, the soaps go on forever — like the never-ending battle between good and evil. The good folks are unbelievably obtuse, the evil comically so: “Heh-heh,” soliloquizes one sinister guy as he gazes at a bottle of prescription pills. “When you take these, Melanie, you won’t need a second dose. You are going down!”

Mother watches Days of Our Lives. Its tag line is, “Like sands through the hourglass run the days of our lives.” This has inspired several alternative similes which I cannot mention here. But Mother discusses them like an opera lover. “Take the prefix ‘mis-‘,” she says, “add it to everything in the show, and you’ve got it. Mistaken identity, mismatched couples, misidentification — swapped blood samples and DNA. The males never go to work. We know what’s going on, but the characters are clueless. It’s fascinating!”

Fascinating, eh? I guess so. But I’ll tell you: after a couple of weeks of that, this male couldn’t wait to get back to work!

This is Willem Lange up in Etna, New Hampshire, and you know the rest.

Willem Lange is a contractor, writer and storyteller who lives in Etna, New Hampshire. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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