Friday, August 12, 2011


I watch a lot of news and public affairs television. I mean a lot, probably more than I should. I watch Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O'Donnell and Ed Schultz on MSNBC, and Keith Olbermann on Current. It will come as a surprise to no one that I have the Fox News Channel blocked from my TV, and CNN has become a ridiculous travesty, with shrill harpies like Nancy Grace all over it. The only reason I watch the three over-the-air networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) is for the nightly news programs. Anything else on these networks is pure drivel. I mean, there is some idiotic program the name of which I can't remember where a bunch of people with helmets and foam rubber padding try to climb over and through a bunch of cartoonish contraptions that seem only geared to maim and cripple them. I don't know if that kind of juvenile nonsense goes over big in Nebraska, but it leaves me completely cold and decidedly un-entertained. After you get used to really interesting, intelligently-written, provocative programs like Battlestar Galactica, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, True Blood, Nurse Jackie, Sons of Anarchy, and Real Time with Bill Maher, you just can't go back to the saccharine, dumbed-down crap the big networks serve up.

Back in the day when I was growing up, the big three networks, plus an educational channel, were all you had to work with. The only way you could get a television signal was through your rooftop antenna. There was no HBO, Showtime, AMC, or Syfy. Everything was in black-and-white, and HDTV was decades in the future. Prime time was 7pm to 11pm. Most first-run shows were telecast in the fall, winter and spring, and you could count on the summertime being nothing but repeats. I'm sure that young people probably can't understand this kind of restricted set-up, and put it in with other incomprehensible oddities like dial telephones or the absence of anything digital, from computers to Facebook to iPhones.

But, I digress. One thing these news shows seem to have in common is a really irritating vocal tic a lot of the talking heads exhibit. That is, whenever they are asked a question or state their opinion they always start it with "Look,.." As in:
Q: What do you think will happen with the budget deficit talks?
A: Look, this is something we've seen before..

Or "Look, there's going to be a legislative logjam no matter what...."

This habit of saying "Look,.." at the beginning of every sentence annoys the living crap out of me because it reeks of arrogance and condescension. It sounds like the way you would talk if you're getting really exasperated trying to talk sense into an idiot Tea Partier, or trying to converse with a really irritating child who keeps responding "Why?" to everything you say. It's the way someone talks when they're losing patience having to deal with someone of obviously inferior intelligence, or they are just too darned busy being important to waste time talking to you. It's a peculiarly Beltway phenomenon, and I bet it's something you hear about a million times a day if you work in any government office. It's the kind of thing that seeps into a culture and stands out like a red flag to anyone not familiar to it. While not as widespread or insidious as Valley Girl talk, it's nearly as annoying.

But, it's not enough to discourage me from my steady diet of news, views, opinions, breaking news, and the massive cavalcade of information that the information channels provide. I'll just cringe a little and squirm in my seat every time I hear that "Look..."

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