Many of us, who are in our middle years, will never forget the historic season finales of beloved television programs. Immediately, I think of MASH, Newhart, Seinfeld, Friends, and Sopranos. Because of exquisite writing, it was difficult to say good-bye to characters that shared our living rooms with us for years. Collectively, as a nation, we grabbed our favorites snacks and settled in on our couches to see how skillful writers would force us to bid farewell to Hot Lips, Kramer, and Carmella.
Well, here in Central Florida, this week, we faced another television loss, as the most watched program of the season, The Case Against Casey came to an end. The daily broadcast of the Casey Anthony murder trial, couldn’t have been better scripted by a Noble Prize winner. Central casting couldn’t have selected better actors and actresses. On a daily basis, we watched for emotion on the face of the shapely, attractive mother accused of murder. We felt as frustrated as the stammering Defense Attorney hearing “Sustained” over and over again. We joked that he could have starred in “My Cousin Vinnie.” We admired the verbal sparring skills of the aggressive blond lead prosecutor, always wearing sexy pumps, and supported by her white-haired Perry Mason-like teammate. And then there were the grieving parents, broken and emotional, but always available for a “Meet and Greet.”
Despite the fact that I was utterly disgusted by the television promotions: “Customize your Casey coverage on your phone, Twitter and Facebook,” I couldn’t turn away. In fact, even on vacation in Las Vegas, the perfect place to escape all reality, I turned on the television whenever I went back to my room to see what was happening in the trial at home in Florida.
Why? What compelled us to watch this case? Was it that television has become so grossly inferior as a form of entertainment that no modern program could equal the caliber of character and plot development that this trial offered? Was it that every day was as compelling as a season cliffhanger leaving us with more questions than answers? Why wouldn’t a mother call the police after her daughter was missing for 31 days? Why would a former police officer call the police to report a gas can stolen? Who is more reliable, the medical examiner that conducted John F. Kennedy’s autopsy or reality TV star, Dr. G? Where was the DNA, hair fibers, and other stuff we learned on CSI, CSI NY, CSI Miami?
Then, the worst possible thing happened. We’ve experienced the same emotion in the past when Jerry, George, Elaine and Kramer were let out of jail and went their separate ways. It was a bad Season Finale. The show didn’t end the way we expected. Casey Anthony was found not guilty. How could this happen?
It could happen because Radar never really died. Jerry was never really arrested for being inconsiderate. Bob Newhart didn’t really wake up in bed with his old television wife. Television is not real. Even our news is not real. What we saw every day and every night, related to the case, was not the same thing that the jury saw. We never saw the photographs that the jury saw. We never saw any of the real evidence that the jury shared. We only saw what a camera could capture. We saw the distorted perspective that is broadcast as entertainment. At the same time, our perception of the little we did see was constantly reshaped by talking heads—so called experts who spent every single day 24/7 telling us what we should believe we saw. It’s not real—just as it is not real as it relates to any other aspect of our society.
While on our summer hiatus, I hope viewers remember this because every, single one of us, could be put on trial by this same media and could someday swim with the fishes, like Big Pussy. We have to get a grip on reality! At this moment, I could point a camera at the water hitting the ground from our sprinkler system and any viewer would believe wholeheartedly that it was raining. But it's not. The sun is shining. The limited camera cannot take in all of the perceptions that we are blessed to enjoy.