Saturday, May 08, 2010


So here are three sections from a 10-part sequence that I wrote about television and that, having shown to a few people, no one seems to like. I thought it was somewhat amusing and that it might be a good piece to perform at readings, but maybe not. Since, in all of my books, I had written poetic responses to various popular media (music, films, video games) I knew at some point I'd need to write a poem about television. The problem is, however, that while I own a television, I never watch it. I don't have cable, and even when I did a few years ago, I didn't watch anything but the CBC news and sometimes a documentary on TVO. It's not really from any moral or ethical decision, or from an attempt to resist the Spectacle, I've just never really been able to find the time to watch TV and, when I do, say at a friend's place, I don't find it that engaging.

To make this blindspot a strength, I came up with the idea of trying to write 10 declarative sentences about 10 popular television shows I've never seen. Honestly, I've not seen one episode of the following. But I wanted to see how much popular culture seeps in despite not having direct access to it, or what sort of humourous conjunctions might arise from my ignorance. It might say something about the hegemonic power of television, or reveal some underlying ideological aspects of the popular media during the last decade.

I've titled the sequence "TV, I" in a gesture to both Iggy Pop's "TV Eye" and Bowie's "TVC 15" (which was also apparently inspired by Iggy Pop), as well as Hitchcock's I Confess. I imagined it was like my television testimonial: as if I was under interrogation from the Cultural Studies police and I had to tell the absolute truth about all I knew about these programs. It's also related to identity: my relationship to television, or else how we often define ourselves and our peer groups by the television programs that we watch.


People sing and are eliminated each week. There are a group of judges who make sarcastic comments about the singers. One is Simon Caldwell, and another is Paula Abdul. The first American Idol was Kelly Clarkson. Another was Clay Atkin. Some of people who don’t make it to the end sometimes still have careers like William Ho, while some winners don’t even get a recording contract. The show is still on, and very popular. There is also a Canadian Idol spin-off. The judges on the Canadian version are Sass Jordan, Maestro Fresh Wes, and someone named Zack. There are probably Idol shows in other countries too.


It’s about a group of people who are on a desert island. No one knows why they are there and each episode reveals clues about how they got there and what will happen to them. It’s not like The Prisoner, it’s more like Sartre’s No Exit. The show has literary pretensions and one of the episodes is based on Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman. The cast is mostly young and the women wear bikinis. It might be like Survivor in that way. People like giving their theories of what’s really happening. It could be that everyone on the show is dead and the island is like Purgatory. Or it could be something like an alien life form has captured these people to observe them, like in a Kurt Vonnegut novel. It might all be a dream.


It’s a constraint-based TV show. It takes place in “real” time with each episode being an hour long and the projected 24 episodes making up an entire day. It maintains the Aristotlean unities and is still in progress. The plot is about a bomb that will be detonated in the 24th hour. Or maybe it’s about a hostage who will be killed within 24 hours. It stars Kiefer Sutherland and is filmed in Canada. He plays a morally-dubious character. He is a single dad and an alcoholic; he makes “bad” decisions in order to solve the crime. Some of the cast, especially the minor characters, are Canadians. It might actually take place in Toronto.

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