About a month ago, for the first time in several years, I had cable hooked up at my house*. Naturally, this means we've been watching a lot of t.v. The thing is, I like to watch American t.v. but the episodes shown on Japanese t.v. are generally a few months to a year behind. Considering that most of my favorite broadcast shows are on Discovery Channel (Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, etc.) this isn't really a problem.
But about two weeks ago I watched the 2008 Mtv Music Video Awards, and tonight, I watched the 2008 Primetime Emmy's. Both programs were, as I said, a few weeks out of date. And, again, it's not really a problem. I don't care that much. I mean, I still didn't know who the winners were before they were announced because I never bothered to read the news about the awards shows. In fact, I had not watched either program in, literally, about a decade. I watched them this year because, well, I was curious.
The thing that got to me about both shows was how little I knew about both the nominees and the presenters. With the Emmy's, this did not surprise me too much as I don't watch a lot of the current popular shows. I mean, I watch a few sitcoms and a few of the dramas, and, ok, all of the sci-fi stuff, but, truly, not much. Out of all the Emmy nominees, the shows I was most familiar with were The Office and Mad Men. But I had very little idea who most of the presenters were, unless they were a legend, Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert, or one of the cast members from the previously mentioned shows.
And that is a good amount of knowledge compared to when I watched the Mtv Awards, where I had to Google just about every single name mentioned. The thing that shocked me was that, had this been 1993, I would have known every single name. Every single one.
Fortunately, these days I have Google and Wikipedia so that by the end of both shows I did not feel quite so culturally clueless as I might have otherwise. And that, trying not to feel culturally clueless, is the only reason it matters. I'm on record many times as saying that fast, cheap, reliable internet access is the only way I could continue to live in a foreign country without going crazy. People make references, in blogs, podcasts, conversations on the phone to these shows and events and often I just let them slide by, maybe making a mental note to google it later. And, to be sure, these are definitely not the most important facets of American culture, nor are they the most important details of any conversation. Rather, they are grace notes, they are the winks and nods that let us all share in moments and details and for that reason alone, I'm glad I watched the shows, even if it as a few weeks too late.
*I got cable purely to keep up with the election this year. Last Wed. (Tues. in the States) found me glued to CNN, with laptop open and cell phone on, forming my own little sphere of American Voter Concern. And I was so happy with the results.