Diary

Oh, Metatelly

17 May 2006 | Diary

Having watched every video I own to a grim and fuzzy death, I’ve begun scraping the barrel and watching what can only be described as meta-telly: the telly about the telly that you love so much, mainly in the forms of DVD extra features.

Most of it is rubbish, isn’t it? Pure bosh. Uninspiring and resulting only in downtime and the bursting of so many bubbles.

“Never meet your heroes, they only let you down”, sing The Bluetones, “I can see the cracks in yourmakeup the closer you are.” I’ve never put too much stock in that idea: I’ve met several of my “heroes” professionally, casually and as a stalking fanatic, and they’ve usually been nice and worldly dudes. But in metatelly world, it’s easy to discover that many of the people involved in the creative processes of making your favourite shows or movies are clueless boobs.

Watching the documentaries attached to American Dad! this morning, one of the voice artists tells me that “American Dad is just on another level. It can go anywhere. Just anywhere!”

No it can’t. And doesn’t. Family Guy might be able to ‘go anywhere’ with its use of non-sequitur but American Dad! doesn’t do any of that stuff and exists in a highly rigid format which can’t change very much. The characters occupy a unique Post-9/11 world of paranoia and racism and overtly conservative values. It can’t and doesn’t go ‘anywhere’ and that’s precisely why it’s great. It does what it does very well and doesn’t worry about ‘going anywhere’ like some homogenised general ‘TV show’*. Ya gink.

(*There’s a thought: what if, mass conformity and fear of trying new stuff eventually results in one single TV show called “Tv Show” or “The Broadcast”? Hands off it, Mr. Jeff Noon, that’s mine!”)

On a similar note, I remember reading a Guardian interview with Richard Kelly about his creating Donnie Darko. He said that the ‘philosophy of time travel’ story didn’t come about until the last minute and that his writing the book of the same name (or rather the manuscript since it was never actually published and Wikipedia actually describes it as fictional) was what made the film what it was. But without the time travel dimension, what the hell is Donnie Darko? Probably just some rubbish film about a kid with schizophrenia.

It makes you wonder whether the things that are great and the things that you love are only great and lovable by pure accident. Did Seth McFarlane actually set out to write a brilliant satire of American life or did he just want to do a cartoon with a talking fish in it?

Does it even matter? I once met Dr. Alan Rauch who told me that he was fascinated with bobbleheads. Now why the fresh dogturd would a published, respected academic have an interest in these ephemeral trend-inspired pieces of tat? Well, because they present a cultural archaeology. Why don’t they sell many ‘Jetsons’ bobbleheads today but they did in the 1970s? Et Cetera. Each bobblehead is semiotic and intrinsically connected to the culture it was born in.

So even if a show is brainless or only great due to accidental circumstances, it is irrevocably relevant to the ‘now’ in which it came from.

But that’s a digression. The moral of this diary entry is to GO OUTSIDE instead of watching meta-telly. Or at least invite your friends over and tell them to bring as many videos as humanly possible.



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