GOTTA RUN . . .
(Or maybe you might not.)
So what's this I'm talking about? Those weeks when the local PBS outfit goes into one of its "Pledge Drives." Now, I'm not gonna rant about the fact that there seem to be about 31 "Pledge Drive Weeks" in the PBS year. Nah. Nor am I gonna whine about federal funding and all that jazz. No sir. I'm not even gonna draw any attention to the fact that as someone who watches PBS yet never gives one cent of his money, I'm a class-A, television free-loader. Nope, none of those topics.
What I love are the lame raps we get during breaks, where the host-goofballs try to guilt us into writing a check for $350, so we can "support PBS" and get our autographed Ken Burns baseball caps, sewed at the seams with actual strands of Buck O'Neill's hair. During pledge week, PBS outlets break out the big guns: Ken Burns, Bill Moyers, Julia Child, ancient concert footage of The Boss, or The Dead, or some other popular-but-not-well-represented-in-the-video-archives artist. I'm not complaining; the shows are great. Even though they interrupt to pass the hat every 15 minutes.
The problem, and the comedy, comes when the hostess, smiling and glowing beneath the four pounds of make-up on her face, tells us something along the lines of, "And that's what made the Battle of Antietam such an important day in the history of our great nation. Just like today is such an important day in the history of television. And you can be part of that history, by sending in your check for $250 . . ."
Or . . . her well-coiffed male partner, sporting the finest-framed eye glasses on the tube, segues from helicopter shots of the Manhattan skyline to instruct us that, "New York City remains a celebration of all that man is capable of. And you can celebrate the capabilities of public television by sending us $125. For which you'll receive the book companion to the wonderful series you're enjoying, plus a 1937 New York bridge and tunnel map, signed by Robert Moses himself."
And on that note, as I said, I gotta be boogying along. Share your own stories of Pledge Drive madness on PBS. Or just tell me what a free-loading, ungrateful shit I am. It's all about the choices we make for the best that television has to offer . . .