Sunday, August 10, 2014

Because Holodecks Don't Exist: Past Tense

On Friday morning I was standing in the shower thinking about this post. I'd meant to get in there and think about a problem I needed to solve in the Awesome Jones sequel but, instead, the only thing running through my mind was how I haven't really watched anything new or exciting because all I've been doing is working. Then, Friday continued to go by and I eventually fixed my Awesome Jones issues, and I watched The Dodgers game and then, somehow, it was 1AM and I was still awake and I wound up watching an infomercial for the Ed Sullivan DVD Collection from Time Life.

Friends, let me tell you, I didn't even know infomercials still existed. When I was a kid and always up way later than I probably ought to have been, I saw a lot of these things. Me and Time Life were BFF even though I never bought a single thing from them. I knew the first 10 seconds of all of the following songs thanks to this very infomercial:

Anyway, much to my surprise/horror/delight Time Life infomercials are still alive and well and they're still pedaling overpriced physical media to the insomniac masses. The Ed Sullivan infomercial had clearly been produced in the 90's and, at the time, I can only assume they were trying to pawn off gigantic VHS box-sets but now it's all DVDs and, for the low, low price of 5 easy payments of 19.99, when you call this 800-number, they could be yours. I really, truly considered calling the number to test whether anyone at Time Life was actually there to take my call or if the infomercial was, as I suspected, being beamed to me (via a wormhole or something) directly from the past.

It really seems like I'm disparaging this poor Ed Sullivan infomercial but I'm really not. I flipped it to the channel because all it said was "Ed Sullivan" and I'm way into old TV. I caught it just coming on and Scott and I ended up watching their entire 30-minute spiel. We couldn't look away. Not because of the fantastic presentation skills of Sun Vista/Time Life but because of how truly amazing the performers on Ed Sullivan were.

Back then, there weren't 900 channels. There were three. At the show's height, on Sunday night you had a choice between Ed Sullivan and who-even-knows-what because no one in their right mind was going to miss what happened The Ed Sullivan Show. So, here's the thing, in order to make it onto the Ed Sullivan show you had to be amazing. Everyone wanted to be on this thing. You had to be the very best to get there.

The performers you still hear about, all these years later, the performers who really set the bar for American popular culture, were walking onto the Ed Sullivan stage at their peak and letting the whole world know that they were something special. And, even now, their performances are completely, perfectly captivating.

 Ok, I realize I just plastered five YouTube videos on this blog post but I don't even care. These performances are objectively fantastic. They hold up so well and I can only imagine being a kid in the 50s or 60s and having my brain exploded by a bunch of freaking muppets (Jim, uhh...Newsom's Puppets) or watching a scene about young, ill-fated passion in the inner city at a time when everything on TV was so censored and clean you couldn't even say the word "pregnant." I can only imagine what it would've been like to see performers like Ella and Sammy Davis Jr. and The Supremes just owning the biggest stage in the world in an era when Jim Crow laws still divided the American South. And don't even get me started on Barbara. Freaking Barbara. 

Alright, so I have spent way longer writing about this infomercial than I did actually watching it. The point is this: In so many ways, we're lucky. We have about nine-thousand channels now, and the internet, and we're connected globally in a way we've never been before. And that is fantastic. But, it's also an over-saturation of stuff. It's static. I spent at least fifteen minutes today staring at a buzzfeed gif dump of cats jumping off things. Don't get me wrong, I love watching cats jump off things. I just think Time Life had something going on when they tried to sell DVDs to me and you and everyone else who watching one of our nine-thousand channels at 1AM. 

Like Star Trek, these performances still hold up. You can still hit play on YouTube and be thrilled/amazed/awed by Elvis/The Beatles/The Jackson 5 just like you can still be thrilled/amazed/awed by City on the Edge of Forever/A Taste of Armageddon/The Corbomite Maneuver. This stuff is still effective. It's still powerful. Like the actual Time Life infomercial, this stuff reaches out from our country's past and cuts through the static. If I did have a Holodeck, I'd be using it (Tom Paris-style) to re-live these legendary performances.

Oh, and if you made it to the end of this crazy person rant about the Ed Sullivan show, here is my gift to you. Think of it as, like, a Certificate of Completion (it can be yours for only 9 payments of 19.99):

One Year Ago Today: I was helping break a Star Trek World Record in Vegas

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...