J.R.Donohue/Commentary/Upon Viewing Little Women on NBC
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Upon Viewing Little Women on NBC
12/24/00

Dear NBC management,

    I will at the outset be accountable for my choice: I willfully and in full possession of my rational faculties exercised volition with regard to viewing the filmed version of Louisa May Alcott’s literary classic "Little Women" on your television network this evening instead of screening it on DVD. Having had my eyes wide open at the time of my decision, indeed armed with absolute awareness that one can not view a film uninterrupted on NBC, there arose in me no regret -- and no resentment -- when the commercial advertisements attendant upon movies on network TV began to unfold.

    Yet, having acquiesced, I find now the basis of fact and reasonable expectation with which I began the evening to be void. I have been watching for several hours. You are interrupting every 9-10 minutes for 5-6 minutes. This game, sirs, is not worth the candle. How could it be when the price is approximately six against nine?

    Such a ratio threatens to rise to parity, so much so that I marvel at the power of your perceived credibility and authority to construct reality such that you hold intact the viewer’s belief that he is watching a film, as opposed to the weight of truth that the film snippets are -- yes ahead -- but negligibly and in imminent threat of inundation. It is an amazing feat of suspended irritation.

    Perhaps you have discovered the proper magician in the person of Mr. Ryan Seacrest, master of ceremonies. This gentleman is seen in the occupation of bumper in most com-episodes (as I now will call the non-Alcottean segments) but occasionally simply intrudes mid-episode. His job is to make a com-episode an event in anticipation of which the viewer will endure the film snippet. I study this creature with fascination. Yes, of course, he has likely been in situ previous Saturday evenings but still one hopes that you considered benching him for a week, for this particular drama, the more easily to avoid wrenching comparison of the wonderful intelligence, demeanor, elocution, syntax and literate quotient of Jo, her mother, her sisters, the young Concord boys, and dare I say even the Marchs’ cook Hannah when juxtaposed with the bumptious manner and person of Mr. Seacrest. Your audience, you apparently decided, cares not of this. Nay, as long as he looks cool. And I grant you that, he is quite pretty, but utterly vacuous, like some Barbie converse into which an NBC producer breathed life for the duration of three hours.

    And of course, Mr. Seacrest is moderating a game, worth considerable cash. While I cannot deny wondering how Ms. Alcott might have reacted had she discovered her magnum opus being made to do service as bait for a lottery (I will here resist the appropriate cliche regarding her being disturbed in her resting place), It is clear that such consideration is null; America is removed by far from such sensibility. You are safe in that.

    Being a radical capitalist myself I had intended to offer grudging kudos to you for achieving a commercial saturation percentage of 40%. But I find at this point in my letter little sportsmanship remaining. The final straw was the abrupt, dismissive cut after the final scene at 10:54 followed by 7 minutes of commercials and promos disturbed only by the film’s credits racing by in a sidebar for a moment. Sadly, this longest of com-episodes pushed back the evening news until 11:01. It’s okay, though: apparently the film ran long but we forgive it since it is such a revered literary classic.

    Yours sincerely,

    John Donohue
    Pasadena, CA






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