A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker
TV VS. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
Several thousand years ago a man named Moses came down from a mountain with some guidelines for living he called The Ten Commandments. Through the years those ten simple rules have proven to be timeless, and men and women the world over have viewed them as a pattern by which to govern themselves.
Now American television knows better. It isnít just that television chooses not to advocate strict adherence to the 10 Commandments -- in many cases it is offering to the public entertainment options that actively work against 10 Commandment principles.
1. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Is there any more sacred rite in all of contemporary society than the Super Bowl? Not only does television genuflect before god-like athletes and coaches for an entire week of Super Bowl build-up and hyperbole, but it also uses this spectacle more than any other to worship at the feet of the Almighty Advertiser.
2. "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image." Television is big on idol worship. From His Airness Michael Jordan to Pop Diva Britney Spears, TV fawns on its idols with sacramental devotion. And when it runs out of real idols to adore it creates more of its own through programs like the appropriately named "American Idol."
3. "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." While you could substitute the title for almost any sitcom here, the "Friends" friends deserve special mention for using the phrase "oh my [deity]" so often youíd think each episode was part prayer meeting.
4. "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." If thereís one thing television doesnít understand, itís the concept of "holy." While there are exceptions to the rule like "Touched By An Angel" and "Seventh Heaven," for the most part television is suspicious of church-goers and casts a skeptical, suspicious eye at anyone who holds anything sacred.
5. "Honor thy father and thy mother." Years ago it was "Father Knows Best." Now itís "Meet the Osborns." Whatís to honor?
6. "Thou shalt not kill" -- unless you can attract big ratings and critical acclaim for doing it, like "The Sopranos." Then by all means, whack away.
7. "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Where would "Jerry Springer" be without infidelity? Or, for that matter, incest? Or transvestitism? Or sado-masochism? Or . . . well, just about any gruesome possibility the most warped mind could possibly concoct?
8. "Thou shalt not steal." Steal. Cheat. Fabricate. Do whatever it takes to win. No, weíre not talking about the NFL again. Weíre talking about "Survivor" and other "reality"-based shows that actually have about as much to do with reality as a Road Runner cartoon.
9. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." So what can you say about a television program in which the entire premise is built upon a lie? That maybe the gold-digging women who are sucked into "Joe Millionaireís" televised deceit deserve what they get?
10. "Thou shalt not covet." This commandment had to be the first to go. I mean, you canít do a decent beer commercial without a little coveting, can you?
Which makes you wonder: what would Moses have thought about beer commercials? Something tells me he would have taken one look and headed back up the mountain.
And taken the 10 Commandments with him.
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--- © Joseph Walker
Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.