We assumed network-sized broadcasters could never afford new programming for so many active channels. We also assumed TV subscribers wouldn’t stand for 500 channels of identical fluff, network reruns, syndicated programs, second-run movies, infomercials, and home shopping. We were sure the abundance of channels would bring on stations of pure environmental happiness, carrying into our homes the comforts everyone craves: the 24-hour Puppy Channel, the Sky Channel, the Ocean Channel, the Baby Channel—showing nothing but frolicsome puppies, placid sky, tumultuous ocean, and big-headed babies. And yet cable TV did indeed get cut up for small pleasures, in the advertisement of more utilitarian interests, on the Food Network, the In Style Network, and Home and Garden Television (HGTV).(Natural beauty took hold on cable only in the pious slideshows of the Christian channels, where Yosemite is subtitled by 1st Corinthians.) The meaningful history of technology turns out to be a history of its fantasized uses as much as of the shapes it actually takes.Our cable-box dreams finally rested on one beautiful notion: the participatory broadcasting of real life.The test will take place in an isolated urban compound with no electricity from the grid, no running water, and no communication with the outside world.that television will be more than it is: that it will not only sit in every home, but make a conduit for those homes to reach back to a shared fund of life.From its beginnings in the early 1950s, TV has been blamed for encouraging overindividualism, for hastening consumer suckerdom, for spurring passivity and couch-potatoness, and for making up the sensational bread-and-circuses of mass-culture tyranny. And yet when opponents tried to divide the wretched things flickering inside the idiot-box into categories, they made excuses for quite unnecessary forms that they felt they recognized (highbrow TV dramas) while deriding unique and far more important items that didn’t suit their vision of dramatic art (game shows, local news, now reality shows). The modern form of the longstanding Western philosophical argument against placing drama at the center of a republic was articulated twenty years beforethe American Revolution.Rousseau insisted in his that a republic (in his case Geneva, circa 1758) was correct to keep a theater out of its public life.No more Stanley Milgram’s proof that ordinary citizens will push the voltage to the red zone while the electrocuted actor screams—so long as a lab-coated tester is there to give the orders.No more Philip Zimbardo’s proof that fake guards will brutalize fake prisoners if you arbitrarily split Stanford students into two groups, lock them in a basement, and leave them to their own devices.
The test will take place in an isolated urban compound with no electricity from the grid, no running water, and no communication with the outside world. Wild shows Grylls purposefully demonstrating more extreme methods of survival in harsh conditions.We’d manifest our nature on channels 401 to 499 as surely as do puppies, ocean, and sky.We’d do it marrying, arguing, staring at the wall, dining, studying our feet, holding contests, singing, sneezing. Well, we’d plug them in and leave the tape running for our real life.The format of this show is similar to that of Survivorman, with the exception being that Survivorman is recorded by the host, while Grylls travels with a two-man camera crew during daylight.Grylls contends that the crew is "under very strict instructions not to get involved or help" unless he is in a fatal situation.Here is a standard misconception: since the noblest forms of artistic endeavor are fictional and dramatic (the novel, film, painting, plays), it can be assumed that the major, proper products of television will be its dramatic entertainments, the sitcom and the hour-long drama.I think this is wrong, and very possibly wrong for a whole number of reasons.Drama has a different meaning in a commercial medium where “programming” came into being as bacon to wrap the real morsels of steak, the 90-second advertisements.It means something different when it exists in a medium we switch on to see “what’s on TV” rather than to find a given single work; when the goal is more often to watch television than to watch a particular drama and then turn it off.To Rousseau, a republic is a political community in which each person is equal and sovereign—as it should be to us, today, living in the American republic.The citizen is not sovereign alone, but sovereign through his activity in a community of peers.