Tonight aired a special 2 hour season finale of the new hit television series TOUCH starring Kiefer Sutherland. What makes TOUCH special is not just that it hosts smart intelligent writing, or that it’s focus is on helping people to make the world a better place — definite rarities in the history of American television (there’s a reason why they called it “the boob tube” in days gone by), but more importantly TOUCH is special because it’s one of many recently new shows on American television that all share those same qualities. There aren’t many of them. At least not yet. In fact only a handful. One handful. Most TV today is still just as shallow stupid predictable mean spirited and intelligence-insulting as it’s always been, catering to the lowest common denominator of our great society.
But things have been changing lately. For a few years. Some might say it started with the premier of CALIFORNICATION on Showtime, where among other things one can listen to some of the best writing on the small OR big screen in recent memory. Take away it’s pandering gratuitous over the top sexual content, and the blatant lack of spirit or spirituality in the show, as if there’s truly nothing deeper than skin, nor farther than the eye can see, and CALIFORNICATION is downright brilliant at times. Never mind that the show has now been on way too long and both the writers and the actors have become way too comfortable and proud of themselves. For a while CALIFORNICATION heralded a new age where American television was not just for the suburban 9 to 5 set.
REALTIME WITH BILL MAHER, along with THE COLBERT REPORT, JON STEWART, DEMOCRACY NOW and even shows like HOMELAND and BOARDWALK EMPIRE on HBO, or DOWNTON ABBEY on PBS have shown real promise that sometimes TV CAN be better than good. And in fact it’s getting better and better. Some might call it a modern renaissance. One long hoped for. More than one arts and entertainment section has recognized that some of this generation’s greatest actors have made the leap to the small screen, and not only not doused their career with gasoline and flame, but have actually produced remarkably rewarding results for themselves and their careers, as well as for an ever growing viewing audience that for a while judged television as the nursing home for washed up actors, actresses and writers. Or at best, a truck stop in between work on the big screen.
But not anymore. Television today is beginning to offer more and more high quality art and entertainment, getting better and better with each passing season. Coincidentally it is simultaneously also becoming increasingly worse. Other aspects of it at least. There are after all over 500 channels on some cable packages. So for every TOUCH there’s five to ten new JERSEY SHOREs or REAL HOUSEWIVES. Perhaps it’s no coincidence but rather a simple result of Newtonian physics playing out, through the expression of human consciousness — the underlying mechanism of television content after all. As some on earth evolve, creating more substantive intelligent content that cares and isn’t afraid to show it, others are allowing their more base desires to flow, creating increasingly more vulgar and shallow content. A yin and yang thing. Just like life itself. Where for every action there is an opposite reaction.
Either way, for those of us who shunned American television for the better part of our lives for just this reason, we can continue to do so for the rest of our lives if we so choose. But we can no longer lay claim to being the cool kids on the block for “not watching TV because it sucks and isn’t good for the health of our mind heart or spirit.” There’s actually some damn fine creative TV being made right now in our here-now history. A renaissance? Well, maybe not let’s go that far. At least not yet. But it does make one curious as to just how far this evolution is going to run and how good American television is going to get in the process. TOUCH is just one example of how evolved humankind — at least from what we can observe in the Western world — is becoming. Recognizing this, being a part of it, can only be described as being good for the heart and spirit. And like it or not, those who still refuse to partake on the simple grounds that regardless of how good it gets they are still just too good for it just might be missing out on something not only very good, but good for them as well.