Television Man by Aidan Morgan


[The lab is quiet and bathed in dim, blue light. Dry ice hovers in the air for some reason. Nothing is stirring. Suddenly! A pod in the corner opens up, unfolding like some organic nightmare. A short, bald figure slides out in a grotesque parody of birth. He rises, reborn. Television screens flicker to life around him. Bridgerton, Andor, Banshee, Wandavision, Leverage: Redemption, Black Mirror and a hundred more shows play simultaneously. The figure takes it all in, nodding. He sniffs. He speaks.]

TELEVISION MAN: That was a really intense one-hour nap! Time to tune into tonight’s Seinfeld! Last week’s fourth-season gay panic episode was a real hoot that definitely won’t age poorly.

DISEMBODIED VOICE: Television Man. You have not awoken from a one-hour nap. Your crippling addiction to mixing Jolt Cola with Zima—

TELEVISION MAN: Ah, the old Zima Zapper.

DISEMBODIED VOICE: —sent you into a 30-year coma. It is now 2023 and you have three decades of television to catch up on.

TELEVISION MAN: Give me 30 minutes.

Haha, that was something. Thirty years of television in 30 years! I’m having trouble sorting it all out, but first of all:

The Simpsons is still on the air? And it’s kind of terrible now? From the copious articles I also read over the last half hour, I gather that it stepped on a rake somewhere in season nine and never recovered. Someone in the comments argued that it happened later in the series, but then everyone started accusing each other of being Nazis. I didn’t think the Internet of 2023 would be exactly like the internet of 1993.

Speaking of the Internet, it looks like television has pretty much moved onto streaming services from actual television networks (which mostly exist to advertise Tom Selleck’s moustache). Shows bubble up and disappear like quantum foam. Seasons no longer run for 20 or more episodes. No one takes a break in September. Seinfeld ended in 1998. Seinfeld is still airing. There are more shows than ever before. There are more cancellations than there are shows. The possibilities are endless. The realities are something more limited.

I have awoken too late, the consensus goes, into the post-Golden Age, post-Peak era of television, when Star Wars has retreated to the small screen (that Andor though) and the most enduring entertainments are slick, salacious high-budget soap operas that stream endlessly, available whenever you choose. The latest trend? Free ad-supported television sites like Tubi, which sounds a lot like the television channels of 1993. Maybe I awoke at the right time after all.

I’m going to watch that Throne Game or Game of Squids program I’ve heard so much about. Right after I go down to the Mac’s and pick up some Jolt Cola. ■