Thursday, August 28, 2003

CrashBurn fizzes?

The new Channel Ten 13-parter, “CrashBurn” is not “too good to rate”. Nice try, Ross Warneke, but I don’t think that anyone would mistake you for a “snob”, either. You’re just another oblivious baby boomer, talking of the 25-to-50-year-old demographic, as if there were such a thing. As I risk sounding like a cracked record, on there being an inter-generational fault line centred (approximately) on those born before and after 1963, I won’t go on, other than simply tendering “CrashBurn’s” ratings as Exhibit Number Umpteen, M’lud.

But while I’m here, I probably should write a bit about “CrashBurn” on its merits (a term lawyers use for a judgement process that, unlike courts proper (in theory), involves human fallibility). I only watched the first ep (16 August 2003), being put-off by the demographic and temporal ambiguity of the characters and the plot.

“CrashBurn” seems to be set in a kind of eternal 1980s, as only a baby boomer could have experienced that decade. Presumably the characters are supposed to be in their mid/late 30s “now” (someone wrote of the show as “The Secret Life of Us” ten years on), but if so, the economic reality of the typical white collar worker of this (and my) age – falling real wages and precarious employment at best – has been bypassed completely in the plot. (Because of its unusual extended-flashback-and-then-filling-in-the-gaps plot structure, you get to see the “beginning” as well as the “end” in the first ep.)

Last Sunday’s “The Simpsons” ep was another example of the eternal 1980s twilight phenomenon in popular culture. As fans of the show would know, the core characters have not aged in the decade-plus the show has been running. In order to maintain flashback verisimilitude then, the era in which Marge and Homer were two young singles on a date has had to be pulled ever forward. Last Sunday it was 1989 – which means that I am now older than Marge and Homer! In other words, Ma and Pa Simpson have created a demographic palimpsest*, in which two boomers and their offspring have leapfrogged and overwritten the very-different experiences of another generation.

Final thought – there was a TV show called “thirtysomething” in the 1980s. I never watched it, but I assume that its characters were styled along “The Big Chill” (the movie) lines. Why has my generation missed its entry into middle-age being depicted in popular culture?

* Now that “Bali” means something quite different for Australians, perhaps the band Redgum could re-form and put out a new sarcastic party-hit for the times: “I’ve got a Melbourne Uni arts degree too”.

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