Saturday, August 25, 2007

Rescue Me

While Rudy Giuliani’s image as hero of Gotham gets snuffed by the International Association of Fire Fighters with Democrats all too happy to help douse his flame, the FX’s “Rescue Me” about life in a New York firehouse after 9/11 also has viewers evacuating.

The TV show, now in its fourth season has suffered a Nielson meltdown with Ad Age’s Brian Steinberg saying it’s in need of triage.

That both stories converge now is telling on a few levels.

Rudy’s remark, “I was exposed to exactly the same things they were exposed to. So in that sense, I’m one of them.” may have singed him, but it wasn’t fatal. Rather, the back draft from it is just part of the now standard media cycle.

Gaffes get gobbled down so fast and digested into the meat grinder of news they pass through like bland chopped liver. They’re fuel for a few runs around the news track, and then become heartburn. First the faux pas. Then the daily feeding frenzy. Then the endless spin cycle. All are typical of our magnified media endoscope. In time, it will be one more stone that future historians will have to turn over and piece together never able to find the original cause.

Rudy’s bigger misstep is linking himself to W and trying to take ownership of an event that for each of us holds a sacred place. Just as no one individual can own The Holocaust because it is larger than any one person, to brand oneself as the savior of 9/11 is a shaky scaffold to support.

W’s leaned on it so heavily over the past six years that it’s bowing. Using it as a hook to hang your Uncle Sam hat on is, well, old.

As a culture, while we feel an emotional bond with that day, we also feel it was leveraged against us and our sympathy used for a war we’re sick and tired of watching.

It’s the reason shows like “Rescue Me” are flaming out. Rescue me from “Rescue Me”.

It’s the sheer exhaustion with the constant state of alarm we’re in without finding the match that started the whole thing. It feels like we’ve been blown plenty of smoke. But where’s the spark that started it all?
Where is bin Laden? He’s a ghost. An apparition.

Similarly, the TV shows that were so rooted in the ground of 9/11 have evaporated. Gone are shows like “The Nine” and “Vanished” which tapped into a realistic sense of danger.

Replacing them are fantasies based on the metaphysical that picked up from the phenomenon of “Heroes.” I’ll have more to say about them once they start to air, but look for shows this fall like ''Pushing Daisies'' a forensic fairy tale that focuses on Ned, a piemaker with a mysterious ability to make the dead live again and “Journeyman” about a time traveler.

Last year’s hit show “Heroes” depicts various people around the world who discover they possess real superpowers from instantly healing physical injuries to manipulating time in order to travel through it.

But all these shows reflect more than just the state of anxiety that pervades a post 9/11world. They are a backlash against the very shows that picked up on that tension.

The ratings war is picking off the shows that were the first responders to the cultural chasm.

In the arrangement of Aristotle’s treatises, his Metaphysics follow his Physics and are so called as they literally follow, though some have interpreted that to mean they go beyond.

Likewise, if television is any indication of the times, with a season of shows that tap into the metaphysical, perhaps it’s also time pols do the same and move beyond the ground war and continuously trying to lay claim to lower Manhattan.

While we remember the past, the country is tuned into a different frequency, one on a higher, more spiritual level.