The Show Must Go On

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There’s no business like show business like no business I know,
Yesterday they told you, you would not go far, that night you open and there you are,
Next day on your dressing room they’ve hung a star, let’s go on with the show!

~ Irving Berlin, from There’s No Business like Show Business, 1954

“The show must go on” is most probably the most well known phrase to ever come out of show business. It means that, no matter what happens, the performance will proceed, as scheduled, for the paying customers in attendance. Nothing will stop the curtains from rising. True professional performers and on-camera television talent do not allow anything to prevent them from appearing on their show. In today’s highly-paid, ultra-competitive mass media marketplace, this means something even more extreme: It means that the only way you would ever miss appearing on your own program would be a death in the family; and that death had better be your own. Professionals do not miss a live broadcast simply because their own mother or father died that day. The show must go on.

Today, in the United States, with the population growing ever more sedentary, illiterate, and desensitized, the show runs continually 24/7. No peace for the wicked, there certainly is no Sabbath day observance.

Today’s American television fare is a mix of typically traditional styles of tedious game shows and mentally debilitating professional sports. To be sure, viewers depend on modern day gladiator’s Xtreme life and death struggles (well, life and death struggles for at least the next 180 minutes — with a message from our sponsors). The modern audience is attached to reality by an umbilical cord to the ever-benevolent state also known as network news. Sprinkle in some celebrity true confessions, MTV, shopping and cooking shows and you have the ultimate electronic sedative; a concoction that can further sooth the souls of even the most docile beasts.

No Viewer Left Behind

Even the more inquisitive minds of the modern American state — the one’s who, as they say, "Want to know" — have been seduced by the vicarious thrills offered by "Reality TV." An oxymoron, Reality TV sanitizes cause and effect through the distance between viewer and the event depicted on the screen: Reality — Well, almost. Actually, it’s slumming. And, may be as close to reality as viewers can get while watching others talk about their most intimate love secrets and hidden desires, while cameras, lights, action, a script, a director, and 15 other TV production crew members lounge about orchestrating the sham.

Yes, even so-called Reality TV is scripted. Trust that there is nothing that you see on TV that is not scripted. Non-scripted TV doesn’t exist. There is no such thing. Can you imagine a bank robber doing a job without a well-laid plan? Reality TV may have got its start from the televised presidential debates. Without a script, Reality TV would be dead on arrival.

So, why are viewers taken in? Why do they believe that a television station could build a TV show without a script? Because they want to, that’s why.

Television may appear to be authentically magical but there are no short-cuts or tricks to producing a program. Everything is planned and scripted out. That’s the way the sponsors want it to be done.

Fact is, Reality TV was dreamt up by the elite who represent the antithesis of a society which spends millions of dollars a day in denial. The American citizen eschews reality. Proof is in the president. Just look at America’s crime, domestic violence, alcohol, and drug abuse problems. Why just a quick perusal of the words and actions of President George W. Bush go a long way to prove to any thinking person that Americans are unable or unwilling to face reality and are currently in a psychologically devastating mode of denial.

Yes indeed, there is no business like show business. George W. Bush’s illegal war in Iraq is evidence of that. For Bush and his neoconservative handlers, the truth remains: no matter how many fabrications and special prosecutors, regardless of the venue, whether it is Iraq, Afghanistan, South America, or Iran, the show must and will go on.

The American spectator can tune in as US military might murders and decapitates. Televised war is paid for, sponsored by, and brought to you by the Bush administration for the entertainment and edification of anyone with a television. Any rebroadcast of this show without expressed, written permission is strictly forbidden.

And, what a show it is too. The current debacle in Iraq, for example, is in many ways far worse than Vietnam. Perhaps not as many young Americans are dying needlessly, and perhaps American troops haven’t murdered as many innocent children, but is there such a thing as a small sin? Recidivism — the repeat of the crime — being committed in a different time and place — makes the perpetrator a serial killer, and isn’t that even worse?

But, let’s get back to our TV audience. Does it really make any difference to the American public the identity of the murdered? Doesn’t the American tax-payer deserve the ultimate in Reality TV? Who doesn’t like a good murder story? And, as everyone knows, Americans are always the good guys, right?

Viewer Ratings & Market Share

Keep in mind that becoming famous and being on everyone’s TV is just as much a part of the American dream, if not much more so, than marrying, having kids, and owning a huge mansion in the country. Even though everyone dreams of being a star as a child, of course not everyone can do it. American movies and TV are the playground of the beautiful people. But besides being beautiful, an on-camera talent in America must have more than looks. Not only must they be a part of the beautiful crowd, but also they must have the connections to get anywhere in the dog-eat-dog world of American mass media. As the old saying goes, "Ass, gas, or grass; nobody rides for free."

Don’t believe that psychotic residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Bush is too modest to boast about this, but his ratings are sky high. The War in Iraq Reality TV show is much, much worse than the same show produced in Vietnam some four decades ago. Back in the days of the Vietnam War, America’s TV news Golden Boy, Walter Cronkite, made television history by going to the war zone in order to broadcast the war directly to millions of American homes. Cronkite reported upon safely returning to New York:

To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion…

But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.

The simple proof that the Iraq War Reality TV show is far worse than the Vietnam War TV show was can be seen by comparing Walter Cronkite’s 1968 coverage to that of today’s TV news Golden Boy, Bob Woodruff. Cronkite went to Vietnam at the height of a huge North Vietnamese army offensive, yet made it back home without mishap. Woodruff was in Iraq, near Baghdad, on a regular day, no different than any other day, when the patrol vehicle in which he was traveling was hit by an improvised explosive device. Woodruff was wounded on a patrol no different than any other patrol. His body armor saved his life — which, as Harry Shearer said, "That must come as a comfort to the troops who don’t yet have enough of the stuff." Fortunately for Woodruff, on the day that would change his life there was no big Iraqi insurgent attack.

The fact that one of America’s star TV newscasters could not be protected in an armed patrol vehicle while traveling near Baghdad, proves that the situation in Iraq — a situation of George W. Bush’s making — to be a total disaster.

Cronkite could come back from Vietnam and return to his job; a job that is definitely part of the American dream. Woodruff is lucky to be alive after his vehicle was hit; the soldiers guarding him were reported to have thought that he had died. Woodruff is now living the modern American nightmare. Unfortunately for Mr. Woodruff and America, this show will go on.

Is this show real enough for you?

Thanks to Alfred J. Miller.

Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He is the president of a mass-media production company and also runs a talent agency in Japan. His first book, Schizophrenic in Japan, is now on sale. Elizabeth C. Gyllensvard [send her mail] is the product of barbaric Swedish ancestry sharpened by two decades in Washington DC. She has gone to earth in the foothills of Georgia.

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