In the tradition of Charles Sopkin's classic book on the state of television in the 1960s, Seven Glorious Days, Seven Fun-Filled Nights, Jack Lechner recounts what it was like to lock himself in his apartment for a week and plug in to the new multichannel universe, watching twelve TVs for sixteen hours a day. The obvious question is: Why?
In the thirty-three years since Sopkin's famous experiment, the quaint world of three networks and a handful of independent stations has morphed into a surfable, endless wave of infomercials and infotainment, A&E and MTV, occasional brilliance like The Simpsons and The Sopranos, and a vaster-than-ever wasteland of Jerry Springer, wrestling, soap operas, and other mind-numbing fodder. The world and television have changed a lot since 1967, and a week of television immersion at the turn of the century proves to be equally revealing about the state of American popular culture now.
With his pet pug Cosmo's unflinching emotional support, his wife Sam's more tenuous forbearance, and advice from "experts" who drop by (a five-year-old for the scoop on PokÃ©mon, for instance), Jack Lechner plops himself down in his New York apartment and, in brave human guinea pig tradition, lets everything from Meet the Press to Xena: Warrior Princess, from beach volleyball to Bob Dole's erectile dysfunction, have its way with his impressionable psyche. As the week progresses, he explores the limits of the media universe -- watching all three network news shows simultaneously, diving into the bizarre waters of public access programming, and even conducting a playoff between the Disney Channel and the Playboy Channel. His observations are perceptive, surprising, and dead-on.
By week's end, Lechner emerges bloody but unbowed, thankful he survived. "I was like the proverbial guy who banged himself over the head repeatedly with a hammer because it felt so good when he stopped. Watching a week of television isn't a mental health regimen I'd recommend to everyone, but it worked for me." This book is his lab report -- hilarious and a little bit scary, a trenchant comment on our media-soaked society.
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