by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
January 2, 2009
THE END OF 'THE AMERICAN CENTURY'
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- It was the best of times; it was the worst of times; it's January 1, 2009.
As I write this, a song from Harburg and Arlen's score for "The Wizard of Oz" is running through my head.
"Ding, dong! The witch is dead. Which old witch? The wicked witch."
Which old witch? The one who lives in the White House, that's who. and his malevolent partner in crime, the one who lives on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory.
Have they gone where the goblins go, be-low, be-low, be-low? Yo ho? Yo ho ho ho.
They've absconded with the treasury to live happily ever after with their ill-gotten gains. They will die in their beds, not on the gallows. As columnist Ellen Goodman said on Sunday, "What sticks in my craw is... the 43rd president is going home with less remorse and fewer regrets than my grandchildren express for spilling their cereal."
I've been wrong for the past few years, believing that George Bush and Dick Cheney would never leave. Power-crazed, and having rewritten the Constitution to create an imperial presidency, I always thought that at the last moment they would call out the armed guards, declare a state of national emergency and install themselves in a permanent dictatorship.
But I was placing power ahead of pleasure. They've had the power. They've had the country to do with as they pleased. Now they will enjoy the fruits of their evil labor.
"I will leave the presidency with my head held high," Bush said, not caring that his approval rating is dragging on the ground. "I guess I don't worry about long-term history, either, since I'm not going to be around to read it."
I'm suffering from post-traumatic Bush syndrome.
As the words "hope" and "change" ring out through the land, all I can think is here, President-Elect Obama, here's the destroyed economy, the hundreds of thousands out of work, the millions who can't afford a doctor, the devalued dollar, the enormous debt, the devalued reputation of the United States abroad, the crumbing infrastructure, the billions of dollars lost - poof! - down a rabbit hole of Wall Street greed and two wars. And by the way, Israel is blowing up Gaza and some Iranian students just asked their government to support suicide bombing. Happy holidays!
Besides the good news - the Obamas and the possibility that we'll get our country back - 2008 was also interesting if you enjoy watching the destruction of most of the things you love.
On television, we were lucky to enjoy one of the most remarkable and hilarious male friendships ever created. David E. Kelley's "Boston Legal" ended the only way it could, with heterosexual best friends, Denny Crane and Allen Shore, waltzing off together into an uncertain future "on another network, one that cares" and agreeing to marry!
What did Kelley mean? In his brilliant penultimate episode, he had his lawyers argue in court that the networks should not be allowed to kill off scripted television dramas just because young people don't watch them. This discriminates against older people, who do watch them, Kelley argued. Naturally, since Kelley was writing the script, the judge ruled in his favor.
In real life, NBC decided to do without scripted drama altogether in its 10 p.m. slot and handed the time over to Jay Leno. The network then announced it was renouncing ratings and going straight for profit (read: reality shows).
Scripted dramas - like "NCIS," "Lost," "House," "Bones," "The Mentalist" or the amazing "Saving Grace" - are dying a) because they are expensive to produce, b) they don't attract the Internet generation, which seems to thrive on loathsome but cheap-to-produce reality shows, and c) advertising is shrinking. The loss of scripted television drama will leave me with more time to spend on the Internet, true. But I wonder if that's what the networks wanted.
Television is struggling because high-end advertising is drying up. As car companies fail, we're going to be seeing fewer Chevy commercials and a lot more pitches for ShamWow.
And speaking of advertising. Here, President-Elect Obama, is a politicians dream - a county without newspapers. Today, printer's ink is as thick as blood on the ground in "CSI." Most newspapers are shrinking or publishing less or going into bankruptcy.
Even The New York Times is struggling. (Want to buy a newspaper company cheap? In 2006, Jack Welch and his partners tried to buy The Boston Globe from the Times for between $500 and $600 million. The Times wasn't interested. Now it's valued at $20 million.)
Magazines are having a hard time, too, and book publishing? This year Random House cut five divisions down to three and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced they will not buy any new manuscripts in 2009.
While I mourn the loss of these things, I have no doubt that new ideas will spring up to fill the vacuums. I look forward to them. As I do to a new President, new hope, and change itself.
Anything would be better than 2008. But we've survived. Happy New Year!
A collection of Joyce Marcel's columns for The American Reporter, "A Thousand Words or Less," is available through joycemarcel.com.