home esoterica Original binnallofamerica.com Audio the United States of Esoterica merchandise contact

Contact Richelle Hawks
Check out Richelle's other work @ Associated Content
Visit Richelle's blog: Beamships Equal Love

Bookmark and Share


Musings on Desire, Technology, and TV

For a long stretch of years, while I was very busy in school, raising my son, and working, I didn’t watch any television whatsoever. It definitely wasn’t a stance and not so much a decision; it was a side effect. That was interrupted several years ago when I was extremely sick with bronchitis compounded by a most dreadful "inversion" in the Salt Lake Valley during Christmastime.

I had slept off a lot of it dozing 20 hours straight, and awoke at midnight weirdly refreshed and wanting to watch a movie. I had nothing unwatched from Netflix or the library, so I decided to open the doors of the entertainment armoire, blow the spider webs off the TV, and flip around to see if I could find anything of interest. O Brave New World: I had HBO! I really hadn’t known. I caught a holiday marathon of Sex & the City—amazingly beginning with the very first episode of the very first season. It was so fabulous in my delirium.

For years, it spiraled from there, one-at-a-time, season-through-season, first-to-last, in obsessive fits: Murder One, The Adventures of Superman, The Wire, Oz, Twilight Zone, all the Law & Orders, Farscape, Earth 2, Homicide: Life on the Street, The X-Files, all of the Star Treks several times through, Jericho, Babylon 5, Lost, The Bob Newhart Show, and on and on.

And then it happened: about halfway through the second season of Seaquest DSV, The Future had arrived again. I had already gone through this with movies and information in general with the advent of the VCR in the 80s and the personal computer in the 90s respectively, this everything-at-your- fingertips feeling. It’s great, I guess. It beats scouring card catalogues and microfiche in 1982 at the Topeka Public Library for any reference to Flying Saucers or David Letterman.

But within this information-agey-feeling that The Future has arrived, there comes some kind of critical mass of information ingestion in which I began to question everything—in the 80s it happened when I found myself setting the VCR to tape Howard the Duck. It is a sense of boredom.

Not boredom exactly—I think that’s a dismissive word generally, but it fits better than any other single word I can think of. Non-single words include: overstimulation, trivial, saturation, novelty, entitlement, whimsy, spoiling, ease, void, meaningless, waste, simplistic. All these things spliced together is what the feeling is. It reminds me to stay focused on quality vs. quanity. “Quality,” being completely subjective, of course—we’re talking about television.

I appreciate the convenience of having access to so much and I take advantage of it—I love it. But I miss the desire for the inaccessible and the cheap thrill of perhaps finally being able to access it, just once, after all.

An example: growing up, my sister and friends and I loved classic movies. This was in the late 70s and early 80s—before VCRs were household objects. Many films simply could not be viewed ever, in Topeka, Kansas.

All was through a veil of mystery—we got what “they” gave us. Some of it made us really happy. Gone With the Wind and Dial M for Murder at the theatre during some strange revival. Of Human Bondage at 3:00am on a channel from Kansas City that we could barely receive. It really meant something—it was special. But it was at the expense of being so starved and probably forever, too--we couldn’t foresee cable, VCRs, actual cities with weird theaters, Netflix, or Hulu. No, this all would have been indistinguishable from magic.

So what am I lamenting about-is it just that there is never enough? Oh, I think there’s enough now. Yet I find myself seeking out and desiring things still unavailable. While I realize this may be a metaphor for larger issues, I also realize it’s not necessarily exclusive to myself. Desire and longing is essential to discovery, understanding, finding, and learning. The quest itself somehow imbues a thing with value. What happens when the quest is negated in the name of convenience?

These are certainly not new questions and ideas, and I don’t mean to rehash the obvious—this isn’t the overdone barbaric yawp regarding the dumbness of reality shows, etc. Stupid junk has always been a part of television—that is part of its entire point. This is about accessibility, the act of seeking, and how it informs experience. Actually, I think the notion of technology enabling access to media and information is just still so experiential and embryonic that it’s impossible to reconcile everything just yet.

I began thinking about these issues recently when I was browsing at Netflix and elsewhere and looked up a few shows I was hoping had been released on DVD or made available on Hulu. I’d really like to see the show Sightings be released on DVD. I know Unsolved Mysteries has been released in DVD collections, which I own, but I’d also love to see all the old episodes released by season. However, the new Unsolved Mysteries does nothing but replay the old stories, so I’ve gotten a fair fix on that.

It wasn’t until I looked up the show I want to see released, trumping all others, that I realized how a lot of the above dynamics are involved: In Search Of. Mid-search, the symbolic title itself gave me pause and I considered how reflexive and apropos it really is. Despite an obvious opportunity for capitalization, the grandfather of our current paranormal TV zeitgeist remains elusive.

In Search Of still is not available on DVD, instantly viewable anywhere, or being rerun on any cable channels. Nevertheless, I did come up with a few links and things to satiate myself, which are listed below.

I have to say in looking through the list of episodes at Wikipedia, I realized how comprehensive the subject matter is, and perhaps just why this show meant as much to me as it did. When it was being rerun on A&E during the 90s, I did watch it but was busy, distracted, and young enough not to consider it too much. I realize now just how much it did inform and shape my interests.

In Search Of links:

  • Many full episodes are available on Youtube, in parts. Here is a link to a simple search.

  • Wikipedia article with each episode listed.

  • The Ancient Mysteries series by A&E are hosted by Leonard Nimoy and very derivative (if not directly taken from) In Search Of episodes. There are several available for rental on Netflix.

  • One of the original In Search Of specials with Rod Serling that inspired the series is available for instant viewing at Amazon (for a small fee):