Life is getting more and not less complicated and for one good reason: there are way too many choices in our everyday entertainment lives. There are too many movies, TV shows, radio stations, cds and mp3 downloads, apps, websites, video games and books (and comic books) to keep track of and my aforementioned head is about to combust like a microwaved egg (oh the humanity! Oh the cleanup!). Life is hard enough. I mean everyday I feel like octamom Nadya Suleman trying to remember the names of even one of her kids as I struggle to remember the name of just one of my two (I believe one is Carl, but I am not sure).
Internet radio? Are you Sirius? Do you really want to open Pandora's box here? 18,000 radio stations? At least 99 percent of them are conservative radio and the rest are incredibly vital stations Live 365's Ambien Psychedelik Chillout and White Racist Dance Trance Barbecue Tunes.
Movie theaters? The average marquee looks more like the Metro North schedule. I feel like the next Katherine Heigl movie, while not being particularly entertaining, may wind up leaving me in New Haven.
As for television and the internet (especially as they are slowly beginning to conjoin becoming the ultimate one-eyed beast) all I can say is, entering that particular matrix is like sitting down with The Carnegie Deli menu and trying to order one of each.
A man can eat just so much prime time brisket.
TV (Smart TV my ass) on its own is the single biggest contributor to choice anxiety in America.
Look, I'm in the business. I've been a long employed TV writer for some 30 years (you can imdb me: I'm David Steven Simon: the comedy writer and not David Simon who wrote The Wire and Treme. I have more hair and no Emmys but I am cute as a button). I read about this stuff ALL the time. And yet to find a show like say, Dexter, on the 7,000 channel listed grid, you have to be either Temple Grandin or an average two-year-old.
When I was a kid there were three networks, a few local stations and you watched what they told you to watch. There was no niche here. No 24-hour Badminton channels (which I imagine would push the catch phrase, "Watch The Birdy!"). ABC, CBS and NBC were the three ring circuses who entertained ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages depending on what hour you were watching and life was fine. Life was simpler. In the summer you got a crew cut so your head felt like the surface of a tennis ball and in the winter you wore a hat. End of story.
I feel like life is already a mystery and now, besides fretting about whether or not there is a God or decent pizza in Los Angeles, I'm forced to spend virtually all of my time making decisions about things that are just not all that important. And you know as well as I do that the devices we now watch TV series on are far more fun and interesting than the content itself. We stare at those things like they're our cherished newborns. We literally cannot take our eyes away from them. Oh, and that real life cherished newborn sitting in that high chair next to you? It would be nice if you actually looked up once in a while to say hello to he or she.
So what do we do? We have to reconfigure our priorities. We have to try to solve the important mysteries and let go of the insignificant ones. Personally I'd like to hire Sherlock Holmes (the 21st Century version because he may come with Lucy Liu and I prefer my PI work with a little jiggle to it). We have to practice a slow and painless disconnect in order to re-connect to ourselves and to each other.
We must become Marine-like and cry "Simpli-fy!"
And where do we begin? By not taking ourselves and our lives so seriously. And by not thinking that it is our inalienable right to be entertained, diverted and distracted 24 hours a day. We should just leave that growing sense of entitlement on the table and walk away.
Now I am a comedy writer and I feel compelled to leave you laughing, so I have worked up a little homage to the world-wide bafflement of everyday media in order to illustrate what I am experiencing every single time I sit down to watch say, late night TV. Think of this as a loving tribute to confusion. It is based on a classic comedy routine that was actually not written by Abbot and Costello. They simply mastered it. It actually had its unique origins in the old English barrooms of the early 20th century.
For the uninitiated imagine, if you will, two men, standing in the spotlight. One is shrewd; razor-sharp. The other not so much.
Your assignment is to enjoy.
Because in this case: I am not giving you a choice.
WHAT SHOW IS ON FIRST?
So, is Jay Leno is on Tonight?
And Jimmy Fallon is too?
No. He's on Late.
Wait. What? Jimmy Fallon is not on Tonight?
That's right. But he will be soon.
In about a year.
But he's on Late now.
Every single night.
But he's not on Tonight?
Now you've got it.
Got what? Wait one second: is Fallon on Today?
No. That's Matt Lauer.
Okay. What? Jimmy Fallon is not on Today?
What about tomorrow?
Oh that's gone.
Tomorrow is gone?
That's right. That is so yesterday.
Tomorrow is yesterday?
You see how simple it is?
What is? So Matt Lauer is on Today, but not Tonight and definitely not Tomorrow.
Perfect! You don't even need a TV Guide.
I have no idea what the hell I'm talking about! He's on NBC?
Seven days a week! What is the matter with you?
But he's not on Tonight or Tomorrow.
But he's on every single day of the week.
See how smart you are? He's on Today!
Wait. What? What about Craig Ferguson? Is he on Late?
No. He's on Late Late.
Wait. He's not on Late?
Actually he's on early.
Wait. He's on Late Late which is on early?
Now you got it.
Got what? I'm so confused. So Ferguson is on the early show?
But you just said that he's on early.
Every single night.
But not Today?
And not tonight?
But he's on the early show?
No, no. That's Charlie Rose and Gail King.
But you said that Craig Ferguson is on early.
Well he is.
With Charlie Rose and Gail King?
Nope. Never. Are you paying attention??
But they are on every day?
And Craig Ferguson is on Late Late
How can he be on early if he's late late?
It's just a matter of scheduling.
So Charlie Rose and Gail King were on Today.
I thought you said they were on the early show?
Seven days a week! Seven days a week! Pay attention!
Okay, So Charlie Rose and Gail King are not on today -- they will never be on today -- but they are on seven days a week!
Was that so hard?
Okay, now what about Letterman is he on Late?
Yes he is.
But you said Jimmy Fallon is on Late.
Well he is too.
So they are on TV together.
Oh no. Never.
But they are BOTH on Late?
What is so confusing about that?
And what about Jimmy Kimmel?
Oh. He's on Live.
So everyone sees him live?
Well no. Only on the east coast.
But he's on live.
All the time. Every night.
What? What about the west coast?
They see him on tape.
But not Live?
Oh he's on Live.
The West Coast.
Wait. What? Is Jimmy Kimmel on Tonight?
So when is he on the air?
Every single night of the week.
But not Tonight.
Is he on Today?
But he's on seven times a week?
He's on Live. It's called Live With Jimmy Kimmel!
My head is spinning. Hey, what about Carson Daly?
Oh. Daly is on nightly.
What? Dily is on nightly?
So he's on Tonight?
Is he on Late?
Is he on Late late?
Is he on early?
But he's on nightly.
Is Daly on daily?
But not tonight, not late, not late late and not live.
You see how easy it is?
Oh: and what about Conan?
He's on at 11.
So is he on early?
So he's not on the air?
Every night what?
He's on the air every single night.
When? At 11.
No. And thank God you didn't ask me about Chelsea.
Who's on nightly?
Oh, that's nightly.
But not Lately.
Lately is not on nightly.
But Daily is on nightly.
There you go.
But Lately is not on nightly or Today or Tomorrow .
But she's on every single night.
Just like everyone else.
Although some are on Tonight, some are on Today, some are on early, some are on late and some are on late late and one is on live but not on tape even though he is on tape on the west coast.
I'm going to bed.