So then: Dog The Bounty Hunter. Mullet-wearing celebrity meathead Duane â€˜Dogâ€™ Chapman is, according to his website, a â€˜modern day Billy The Kidâ€™ and â€˜the greatest bounty hunter in the worldâ€™. So heâ€™s a treacherous, horse-thieving teenage outlaw? No such luck. Actually, if he really is the greatest bounty hunter in the world then it suggests that this hard-bitten profession is dead in the water. If Dog’s heroic deeds, such as strong-arming crack-addled teenage geeks and ringing up a mark and asking him to kindly come down to the office to be arrested (which he obliges to do with no protest whatsoever), are representative of the state of modern bounty-hunting then perhaps Jim â€˜Catâ€™ Rossignol could soon be taking on Dog for that coveted title. Or perhaps not. The title of Bounty Hunter is, of course, a TV-friendly misnomer. Dog is actually a bail-bondsman who features in a television show that plays out like The Osbournes would have done had Hitler had won the war. Unintentionally hilarious and at the same time deeply unsettling, it somehow sums up all the TV I watched when I was in the US, underlining an unspoken motto that seems to read â€œitâ€™s okay to be stupid, because itâ€™s more honest than trying to use your brain. Look, airplanes!â€
I canâ€™t get enough of the steady stream of jingoistic hyperbole that gushes from US television channels. The UK’s attempts at home redecoration and emotional manipulation are bad enough, but American channels fill me with a kind of exuberant incredulity, a dizzying side-effect of their torrential array of high-bandwidth conceits. Advertising for erections pills that might cause heartburn and brain ulcers, second and third mortgages to â€˜pay offâ€™ your mounting debts and DVDs of endless country ballads fill the void between the really good stuff. Is it any wonder that the country is in a state of perpetual warfare when there are at least two documentaries about how awesome guns/tanks/Navy Seals are on the TV at any one time, and only McDonalds, Garth Brooks and Walmart’s own-brand debt-consolidation to look forward to in the rest of life? Before Iâ€™d had breakfast Iâ€™d already been briefed on UAV drones, the development of Napalm and non-standard paratrooper tactics in Afghanistan. World War II seems to have involved some â€˜ass-kickingâ€™, while all the good military tech development is doing us could barely be crammed into a single program about dehydrated food and Kevlar. Donâ€™t mention Vietnam though, thatâ€™s just not polite.
People occasionally mention the lack of irony amongst Yanks and point to TV as evidence for this. Actually, most Americans Iâ€™ve met have had a pretty good grasp of irony, often with a sardonic wit to boot. I think that US TV is actually only evidence of mindless greed and a remarkable lack of sympathy for what it actually is to be human. This is no longer the opium of the masses, itâ€™s Largactil â€“ a deliberate bludgeoning of consciousness that will not relent until all our souls have been roundly bruised, broken and sedated.
Back in the UK, more televised news events from the US fill me with great sadness. On the one hand there is a crippled woman, whose established wishes, as well as those of her husband, are to be trampled by aggressive legislative processes intended to â€˜preserve lifeâ€™, while on the other there is yet another gun-rampage in a school. Where is the legislation designed to preserve the life of those people? What is the internal justification for those people who support the gun laws? How can they possibly write off events like these as â€˜acceptable lossesâ€™, when theyâ€™re the same people who are not willing to let one severely brain-damaged woman die in peace? When will the hypocrites get kicked to death by an army of the bereaved? Not in this lifetime, I fear.