Wednesday, March 12, 2008

TV Hates Bikes -- And Now It's Payback Time

So "The Wire" is gone and I never saw it. No HBO.

"The Wire," I've read, had widely been called the best show on TV, and some critics went so far as to claim it was the best show in the history of TV. That, my friends, has to be hyperbole given that the medium has produced 19 Action News, "Joanie Loves Chachi," "Room 222" and the memorable private-eye saga "Barnaby Jones."

(Here's a barroom argument for ya, by the way: Who was the better shot -- Barnaby Jones or rotund but deadly Frank Cannon? I once seen ol' Barnaby shoot a guy off the top of a 4-story parking deck, with a snub-nosed .38, from the goddamn hip! That was some fancy shootin'. Hard to top.)

Tell 'em Barnaby says ... "You're dead, bitch!"

But for the hell of it, I'll grant the premise that "The Wire" really was the best show on TV. So why was it canceled?

I'll tell you why: It's a sign of a groundswell of public indignity that the evil mainstream media has still not picked up on -- er, up on which the mainstream media still has not yet picked.

So let me spell it out for them:

The public has quietly, but inarguably, been getting increasingly disgusted with the persistent anti-bike bias in Hollywood.

Look at the evidence of the grassroots uprising -- it's inescapable. "George Lopez" -- no bike themes, cancelled. "King of Queens"? No bikes, no renewal. Ditto for "Reba" and "Studio 60 on Sunset Strip."
America, it seems, is staging a silent protest with its collective remote control.

We needn't go back very far in history to remember a time when bikism was rampant on television -- so omnipresent that it was taken for granted. Little more than a generation ago, people thought it was hilarious that Lucille Ball rode no bikes and had no bike-riding friends. It was OK to openly not care about cyclists then.

When bike riders did appear on TV, they were characters to be mocked and scorned, such as evil villain Eddie Haskell on "Leave It to Beaver." (Ironically, Haskell became a bike cop in L.A. before he died in Viet Nam when he stepped on an explosive booby trap packed with headset bearings -- no lie!)

Some people thought times were changing with the civil-rights movement, but there was little progress on the screen. People still called cyclists "bikers" without a hint of shame.

Even "Starsky and Hutch," the show most renowned today for its fearless and groundbreaking social relevence, reportedly caved in amid an undercurrent of bikism. According to Wikipedia and other infallable sources, visionary writer/creator William Blinn originally planned to depict pivotal character Huggy Bear as an African-American bike messenger and friend of crime fighters. But activists went ballistic during those racially tense times, threatening a boycott if ABC didn't head off the pejorative portrayal of a black man as a cyclist. ABC mollified the potential protesters by redrawing Huggy Bear's character as a flashy, jive-talking, snitching pimp who sold out friends each week for a $20 bill.

Historical note: The experience embittered Blinn, who persisted in trying to inject cycling themes into his scripts. Eventually, he drew upon his experience as the writer of "Brian's Song" and tried to break down the bike barrier with maudlin sentimentality. Late in the show's run, he penned an episode in which Hutch helps Starsky, brain-damaged from a gunshot wound, rediscover the joy of life through the poignant and symbolic gift of a hand job on a bike.

"C'mon buddy -- there's still muggers to catch!"

However, ABC cancelled the series before the episode aired.)

Each time progressives thought the tide might turn, Hollywood and the networks squashed the normalization of cycling. Lawsuits ensued, but invariably they failed as courts held that plaintiffs failed to establish that any bias against bikes was intentional.

However, the legal tide is turning in concert with -- or perhaps because of -- the grassroots hostility toward bike bias.

In the landmark lawsuit Orehek v. NBC et al., attorney D. Steiner and other legal intellectuals advanced the proposition that they need not prove discriminatory intent to prevail. Instead, they claimed -- and a trial court in Los Angeles held -- that under the so-called disparate impact theory, the statistically demonstrable lack of bike-themed programs establishes discrimination via a pattern of facts that “are facially neutral in their treatment of different groups but that in fact fall more harshly on one group -- bike riders -- than another and cannot be justified by business necessity.”

So everyone gets the picture now. Everyone, that is, except HBO, NBC, ABC and etc.

But here's my prediction: Whether it's because of the coming popular revolt against bikism or a court-imposed woodshed session, the tide will have turned completely by next season. In fact, word is that , if "American Idol" contestants aren't riding bikes while they sing, that show will be as doomed as "The Wire" and Fox will be cooking up a show about security guards at Interbike.

- JN

1 comment:

ds said...

Another example...the Sopranos. In a season 3 episode, Tony Soprano's daughter, Meadow, has her bike stolen at college. When she informs her dad of this, he responds, "you mean your 10-speed?" Who under 80 years old refers to geared bicycles as "10 speeds?" The result, of course, is that the show is no longer on the air. Coincidence? Unlikely.

I am also impressed with your knowledge of the evidentiary framework of a disparate impact discrimination lawsuit. If they weren't all thieves and liars, I'd suggest you become a lawyer like that creep who represented Orehek in that NBC case.