The Times They Are a Changin'

by John Stiles

You know, I do not remember who shot J.R. And, quite frankly my dear, I don't give a damn. Or at least I don't remember giving a damn at that particular juncture in my life.

And no, I can't recall just how ''The Fugitive'' finally managed to prove to Lt. Philip Gerard that he really didn't kill his wife. Although, I'm pretty certain I'm one of the very few who wasn't watching that particular episode on the box either.

I also wasn't on hand the night M*A*S*H bowed off the air. Actually, I liked the original movie much better than the TV series, anyway. Now normally I wouldn't even have remembered that there was anybody named ''J. R.'' or that somebody had taken the time to ventilate the overbearing ass. And I'm certainly not in the habit of having television flashbacks of Dr. Richard Kimble and his weekly cliffhanger of some 30-odd years back. However, it was all brought back to the surface quite recently with all the fuss over that ''Survivor'' series on TV.

I never cease to be amazed at the percentage of the American public that can get caught up in these little prime-time soap operas. And before you start for the e-mail button on your home computers, I am fully aware that ''Survivor'' was supposedly one of the new genre of ''reality based'' programs, a natural outgrowth, oddly enough, of the silver screen offers of ''ED TV'' and ''The Truman Show.''

But, if that's reality, I'd much rather have a little good old fashioned drama and contrived pathos.

I must confess though, I was truly fascinated with all this ''Survivor'' hoopla. In fact, nearly everybody in this office, under the age of 45 that is, was literally glued to the tube a few weeks back when some supposedly ''take no prisoners boob'' named ''Richard'' outlasted a group of equally personality-stunted exhibitionists for a cool million. Lets be serious for a moment, people, the overwhelming majority of the television viewers in this nation have just spent most of the last CBS season watching a high-priced game of office politics. We could, almost all of us, have expended just as much actual empathy and wasted a fraction of the electrical power by simply pulling up a swivel chair to our respective copy machines and/or water coolers and seen the exact same thing without commercial interruption.

Quite frankly, I cared much more for the inhabitants of ''Gilligan's Island,'' than the castaways on ''Survivor.'' At least the Gilligan mob had a much better wardrobe and proved quite adept at adapting to their surroundings. That's what comes from just happening to have a professor on board. Am I the only one who wondered just where these people, all save Gilligan and The Captain at least, managed to pack those outfits for a ''three-hour tour?''

Now there was something worth worrying about. Actually, we'd have done the world -- and no doubt the families of the personality-challenged bunch on ''Survivor'' -- a much bigger favor by just taking up a collection to pay each and every one of these jerks to stay on that man-made obstacle course cut from the cheap side of a South China Sea island.

I mean who really gave a damn about any of these people? Hell, I'd have gone into debt to have given them a million bucks just to let me be first in line off that glorified sandbar.

I doubt if there are very many of us who could have spent an all-expenses weekend in a four star resort with any of these social drips. But the ''Survivor'' craze did show me a few things I hadn't seen before. I don't recall that any of the other blockbuster television series' finalés of the last half century ever got such play on the front pages of newspapers in this country from coast to-coast.

Back in my day -- I always swore I'd never say that -- this medium wouldn't have even admitted there was such a thing as television. But the times, as the bard of Rock & Roll once put it so well, they are a changin'. (For those of you age-challenged among us still trying to follow all this, that's Bob Dylan.)

Now, with a completely new version of ''The Fugitive'' due out this coming fall, I feel it is my duty to save this current generation of TV viewers the week-to-week agony of Dr. Kimble's journey from one handyman's job to the next as he tries to avoid the executioner's rope. Come to think of it, now that might not have been a bad twist on ''Survivor.'' Think of the joy in knowing that those banished from that sun-baked, hell hole of an island, would not only miss out on a million bucks, but face the long-journey gurney and lethal injection. Sorry, I was just day-dreaming.

Well, anyway, when this version of the Dr. Kimble saga finally ends, and we all know it will end, be it this season or the next, you won't need to worry. If the writers have the artistic integrity to stick to the original script, the one-armed man did it, and Lt. Gerard, in a strange trick of fate, will shoot the culprit as he tries to toss the good doctor from a tower situated, I believe, in an amusement park. Unfortunately, it seems that the infamous one-armed killer dies without explaining just what happened that fateful night he killed Kimble's wife. But regardless, this little bit of knowledge may save you and your VCR when the time comes for this program to eventually run out of steam. And, yes, that is my final answer.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online September 13, 2000

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