"Antiques Roadshow", by contrast, will cause me to pause and watch, for just the same reason I like the AM radio Saturday morning garden show. The people who call in to the garden show seem more real to me than any of the joint chiefs of staff.
I'm not opposed to edgy television, particularly, and I think that Courtney Cox's new cable television show is darkly witty in a workable way. I don't mind a talent show such as American Idol or Rock Star: whatever-has-been-band (thank goodness there is no "Rock Star: Joy Division. Oh, wait. That's New Order). But the sense of real connection one gets from what I consider the "real reality" of television and radio energizes me.
I finished high school in a small town some forty miles from my "home town" of Gurdon, Arkansas. This town, where my father lives today, had a local AM radio show that played country music and Razorbacks football games. That station did not catch my interest much, other than perhaps the local mailman's five p.m. show of "sockin' soul", complete with rhymed Prairie-Home-Companion-goes-Soul-Train personalized advertisements. But it did have "Swap Shop".
"Swap Shop", like "Dialing for Dollars", dates from the early days of media. It's a simple premise. We now would call it "Radio Craig's List". A moderator hosts telephone calls. Callers dial in with things to share or swap. The unpracticed burr of Arkansas accents saying "I have a La Z Boy for sale, brown naguahyde, paid one hundred dollars for it, will sell it for twenty, my phone number is 555-1234" somehow had more life in it than even an episode of thirtysomething.
Nowadays there are similar fulfilling experiences. The right sort of eBay auction, or any of dozens of journals,or even a download from the right Creative Commons netlabel, can give something of the same experience. Yet "swap shop", for all its "ad and a phone number" succintness, may have been the better "deal", because one felt the stratas of society opened before one, and they all, really,boiled down to collard greens to sell and perhaps a free puppy to give.
So many times, perhaps, one longs to reach out one's arms and just hug, hug, hug, but instead one should just keep dialing in, and asking if anyone has an aquarium to sell (I got two for five dollars once), and accepting that we all live in a giant quilt, and it all patches into a pattern if you just squint your eyes at it correctly. "Good morning, Swap Shop!", a deep voice intones, and the world is once again a place of fresh Spring tomatoes and the search for a good used car.