TV Land: Something completely different

The late ’90s were trying times for all of us. It was clear the apocalypse was near as Y2K was imminent, the first “Star Wars” prequel was released and some sadistic son of a bitch decided bleached tips were an attractive quality for pre-adolescent boys. For better or worse, Lance Bass has never left that world. He’s still rockin’ the blonde highlights and promoting sexually ambiguous boy bands — this time, they’re called Heart2Heart. Only the method in which he does has differed significantly from the hay day of *NSYNC. He’s all fancy now, using YouTube, Facebook and what my mother calls “The Twitter” where all “the youths” (her words, not mine) congregate in an universe of digital bliss.

What my mother doesn’t know (which includes when the Civil War happened) is how wonderful the Internet truly is. It’s for more than just porn, though even the ever-expanding genres of pornography are indicative of how the Internet has transformed not just the perverse predilections of hirsute men in basements, but how and what we watch. There’s now a type for every twit out there: foot fetish, brunettes, clown midgets, erotic reenactments of the Battle of Waterloo. I haven’t witnessed any of these personally of course. But, if I were curious enough to do a Google search for “sexy Napoleon,” something would surely pop up. Thanks to the Internet, we now have a niche world that also applies to TV.

I mentioned the ’90s earlier not just because I still love boy bands like Hanson, but to present a salient contrast. If I wanted to re-watch a clip from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in 1999, I would have to exert so much effort and I’m an extremely lazy person. First, I would have to find out the episode title and number. Then, I’d have to find out if that episode was being repeated any time soon and on what channel, if the show had already been syndicated. Then, I’d have to resurrect that ancient device, the VCR, from its technological tomb and record the program on a blank VHS tape. That’s a whole lot of standing, walking and general physical activity that my feeble frame cannot handle. I repeat: Thank God (or Al Gore) for the Internet.

The World Wide Web has saved my body from unnecessary physical exertion and it’s made watching and interacting with TV a hell of a lot easier. That “Buffy” clip I wanted is just a click away on YouTube, but what’s fascinating about the Internet isn’t really the accessibility but what that accessibility does to the content of the TV shows we decide to watch. Like with pornography, the Internet gives us the agency to choose and the knowledge to be aware what there is to choose from in world of increasingly diverse programming.

Now, I have strange tastes. I have a massive crush on silent film star Buster Keaton and I believe actor Ed Harris is the supreme deity who determines all human fate. Clearly. But, my tastes in television run even farther into the abyss of oddity. Without the Internet, I would have never discovered the silly walks of “Monty Python” or the transsexual swamp slut of “The Mighty Boosh.” Without Netflix streaming or YouTube, I would be a far less interesting person. I would have to succumb to mind-numbing activities like reading, socializing and ­­— God forbid — any type of athletics.

I did venture outside my hollow hermitage for one hour, though. Last Friday, I attended a lecture on the current status of television where it was stated that all TV shows must have mass appeal. Now, this is pure poppycock. If TV shows were judged by ratings numbers, then yes, he would be right. “Two and Half Men” receives sometimes over 10 million viewing numbers a night. But so does “Downton Abbey,” a British historical drama set during WWI. It’s hardly mass appeal, but it’s massively popular thanks to Netflix streaming and a dedicated Internet fanbase. With the accessibility of the Internet, TV is more interactive and diverse than it has ever been which means my dream of the “sexy Napoleon” show isn’t so far-fetched.