Relativity TV

Brian Hicks

Updated February 3, 2006

The days of Donna Reed are long since finished. We all know that by now. What is more surprising is television’s modern predilection towards not the studio but the viewer. The history of television is the history of the fourth wall. That is the name given in the industry to the lens, the television set – those things that keep viewers’ senses other than sight and sound from involvement in the show.

But there is another way to involve viewers – by making them the show.

"Survivor," "American Idol," "Extreme Makeover"… the titles of the new breed are as evocative and thrilling as being in the studio, and that is exactly what producers want to achieve.

The urgency of watching ordinary (though hand-picked) people eat worms and swap wives is hard to match with the old "honey I’m home" pattern, and it involves viewers not only through phone-in voting that generates revenue but also by making them cry, laugh, and scream at the that-could-be-my-neighbor heads on the small screen.

Last week, I saw a show that took everything a step further.

One of our favorite watchwords here at Wealth Daily is "singularity." It originally refers to a Black Hole, i.e. the point where a dying star collapses on itself and according to Einstein and relativity, where space-time is distorted.

The TV show I saw is called "Web Junk 2.0," and it airs every Friday on VH1. VH1, for its part, used to be a music channel ("Video Hits 1"), but since Y2K its direction has been governed by the term "CelebReality," a fusion of shows like "Survivor" with the morbid curiosity many pop culture sponges have about fallen stars like Erik Estrada and Brigitte Nielsen.

The result is generally very entertaining, at least more than the Michael Bolton videos VH1 used to air all day.

But this show "Web Junk" is a different animal. Brought to you by, a website where funny, shocking, and bizarre video clips of all types get posted for worldwide consumption, "Web Junk" literally shows computer video clips on TV.

So, with the addition of a comedian to crack wise about the segments before and after they roll, we essentially end up sitting on the couch watching the internet.

What this spells is one in a long line of developing media singularities. The division between the internet, movies, music, and television is collapsing. Last week I told you about content that will be available on iTunes simultaneous to its TV debut. Google stepped things up with their new Google Video service, which will make the smorgasbord even more appetizing and diverse.

Extending the Black Hole metaphor, you should know that last year it was announced that what is sucked in to a singularity is not obliterated. A tiny, focused amount comes out the other side. I can’t think of a better way to describe the integrated media trends we are seeing.

You can’t escape a singularity, and if you recognize the event horizon, profits won’t escape you.


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