Wednesday, June 3, 2009

In that small window of time between a late dinner and passing out from a long day, I endured the unpleasant experience of viewing most of ABC's hearty "television event" Earth 2100. This pathetic and demented waste of entertainment dollars truly deserves my full analysis, but, oh, who cares? (he said with the dispassion of a litterbug.) Just check out the web site yourself, but be forewarned: if this is any indication of what lies in our future, then we are doomed for sure. (I'm speaking of the quality of future television programming, here.)

Earth 2100 follows the story of a baby, "Lucy", born at 9:05PM on June 2, 2009 (ohmygod that's, like, right now! Today! At the beginning of the show!) and then goes through her whole life as the planet around her descends into dystopian chaos as a result of global warming and over-population. It ends with the inevitable Malthusian catastrophe -where complete societal breakdown returns the last few gun-toting survivors to the pastoral dream of subsistence farming. Like in Star Trek: First Contact! Awesome!

The story is interspersed with scientists commenting on the veracity of the plot points (the belching sheep and farting cows have finally gotten the best of us.) I know they were scientists because there were title cards that read their names and then said "SCIENTIST" beneath them. Among the predictions, Lake Mead is an absurd, dry and empty blunder of civilization. (NO!) It was all very fascinating and depressing, and just when you were about to give up on the audacity of hope and go outside to loot and pillage, Bob Woodruff came onscreen again to tell us "But it doesn't have to end this way..." and the last ten minutes of the show were devoted to the glories of wind and solar power, plug-in cars, and matching synthetic jumpsuits.

Not saying that those are bad ideas. (At least, not today.) My neighbor recently hired a general contractor to remodel his house. He doubled the square footage and installed as many rooftop solar panels as he could fit up there. A few weeks ago we were chatting over the fence and he admitted that the solar panels cost him forty thousand dollars. And then he excitedly showed me the electric meter spinning in reverse. When we finished our conversation, he turned on his backyard swim-spa and jumped in, whereby his electric meter abruptly whiplashed in the other direction. Also, his contractor showed up at the end of the job driving a nice, new red Ford F-450. It seemed a hulking, waxed, gas-sucking pig in the face of it.

Why do I mention all this? No good reason. It's just funny to me. In the 60's there was a popular book called The Population Bomb, and it predicted that something like a billion people would starve to death in the '80s. And in the '70s there was the very real fear of "Global Cooling". An Ice Age was imminent. We would all be huddled together sucking ice cubes in tent cities by the next decade (around the time when I graduated from high school.).

But now the earth is warming up and population growth is on the decline (and some say irretrievably so.) I don't know where to start with any of this, except to say that things change. People change. Our adaptive nature and the interweaving of necessity, intellect, and invention make the future wholly unpredictable. All the same, one thing remains consistent: we get lame tv. It can always be counted on.

And hey, if you don't have the time or attention span to view the bitchin' fearmongering "unprecedented global television and internet event," you can read the annotated transcripts of the show on the web site. Or you can play Earth 2100: The Game. You are also invited to submit your own videos of what you think The End will be like. Awesome. Plug in simply everything for it.

I just wish Bob Woodruff had worn a paper-mâché donkey head for the whole show.