and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
February #1

TV fiction offers escape
© by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Friday, February 3, 2006

I want to live in TV Land.

On January 18, a bomb threat was emailed from a computer at the Newton public library to Brandeis University. The library director refused to let law enforcement officers inspect the libraryís computers, and Newton mayor David Cohen backed her up. Fortunately for the college kids and teachers, the threat never materialized so no one was killed.

If "24"s Jack Bauer had been in Newton, he would have asked the other investigators to go read a book, then removed the librarianís fingernails. And it would be worth the commercials to see Mayor Cohen hauled into CTU for "questioning."

Actually, I was a little uncomfortable when CTU (the Counter-Terrorist Unit) tortured one of its employees because the director thought she was a mole. When they learned they were wrong they apologized but she quit anyhow.

Jack is always right though. American escapism needs both its heroes and its anti-heroes.

In the new Friday night show "In Justice," a judge refused the National Justice Projectís request for a DNA test for a wrongly-convicted man because he thought the old case needed "finality." Lawyer Kyle MacLachlan went ballistic and was cited for "contempt of court" which he readily admitted as he was hauled off to jail.

The screenwriter must have been familiar with Massachusettsí Amirault case, in which the Supreme Judicial Court reinstated the convictions of Violet and Cheryl Amirault in 1997. Justice Charles Freid said that the public needed "finality," regardless of justice. As someone who was sure that the original trial had been a witch hunt, I remember feeling that contempt thing and cheered when MacLachlan spoke for me.

Older viewers may recall MacLachlan as the FBI agent in "Twin Peaks," a quirky, cutting edge mystery that unfortunately ended badly when the final insane episode appeared to have been written during its commercial breaks. Life may often be like this, but I like my television series to have a satisfying ending, and with many other fans, am hoping for the best with "Lost." I want all the loose strings neatly tied, as well as a hint as to the ultimate meaning of life.

Without the metaphysics, you just get thrillers like "Surface" which is still great fun with likeable characters and a cute little critter.

Do you ever wonder how outsiders would react to being suddenly "lost" in Massachusetts? That would make a good series. "Jack, come quick, thereís a Ted Kennedy in the woods!"

In my TV Land, American voters could choose a president from a list that includes "West Wingís" Jeb Bartlett, "24's" David Palmer (wonít include his pathetic successor), and Mackenzie Allen on "Commander-in Chief."

Iíve always found Bartlett annoying, though I love the show and would be happy with a choice between the two new candidates played by Alan Alda (R) and Jimmy Smits (D) as men of integrity. Anyone who wants to understand Washington and both sides of its issues should be watching "West Wing" before it disappears. (Note to NBC: please reconsider!)

"Commander-in Chief" is in trouble too, competing with "American Idol." I watch the latter sometimes, enjoy seeing people with talent get a chance, but also because itís good in todayís politically correct and random-kindness environments to hear the truth being spoken by Simon. I think this is also the reason "House" is so popular; our new TV heroes are the men who tell it like it is, regardless.

You donít have to agree with their politics to love Denny Crane (Right) and Alan Shore (Left); their friendship, and "Boston Legal," is to laugh, cry and die for. If I am ever in trouble, bring them to life for me.

Right after "In Justice" gets innocent clients released, "Numbers" uses principles of mathematics to find the guilty, and should get a public service award for maybe getting enough kids interested to save our future economy.

In case you think I spend all my free time watching television, Iíll tell you that my partner Chip has saved us hours a week by recording our favorites, then later that night or the next evening, fast-forwarding through the commercials. I never used to mind a few ads, but as with so many things, abuse has set in. Besides, werenít we once told that cable TV would be ad-free if we paid for the service?

People who disparage the intelligence and art created by television must not get HBO, where shows like "The Sopranos," "Deadwood," "Six Feet Under" and "Rome" raise modern entertainment to Shakespearean levels.

Then there are the shows I watch just for fun:" Medium." "The OC." But as Iíve done all my life, when viewing alone, I read during the breaks. Have often wondered how companies make money by advertising on TV, even before everyone starts doing what Chip does. I sometimes watch a cute commercial but except for Budweiser and Hallmark, rarely note who or what it is they are advertising.

This weekend, many American guys will be wishing they lived in TV Land. I wonít watch the Super Bowl game, but I do understand the appeal.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem News, Newburyport Times, Gloucester Times, (Lawrence) Eagle-Tribune, and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence Journal and other newspapers.