July 10, 2008

Summer ‘Shows’ Can Provide Comic Relief

By Michael Miller [email protected]

In the old days, summertime television watching was pretty boring. The major network shows ended their seasons in May, and from then until the new shows started in September, there was nothing to watch except reruns or old movies. But with the advent of cable TV, there are lots of new programs to keep me from getting any exercise through the summer.

For example, one of my favorite new programs can be seen not only on a cable channel, WTOB, but also at blacksburg.gov, so I can download it to my iPod and watch it anytime. The program is a masterful example of Theater of the Absurd in which characters are caught in hopeless situations and forced to do repetitive or meaningless actions; the dialogue is full of cliches, wordplay and nonsense; the plots are cyclical or absurdly expansive and are a parody of realism.

If you haven't caught this show yet, let me describe a recent episode to whet your comedic appetite.

Previously, the town council had approved a plan to have a developer build a general store, a movie theater and a diner. When a resident pointed out that the general store would be selling actual products that people need, including socks and (gasp!) underwear, the council immediately called a "do-over" and eliminated the general store from the plan. In this episode, the council considers a special use permit for the diner, and hilarity ensues. Here is the gist of the conversation, if not word for word.

Councilman: All right, we will now hear public comment regarding the diner. If any right-thinking resident wants to speak out against this establishment that will be selling fatty foods to lower-income residents, er, I mean, inhabitants, of our town, now is the time.

Mayor: Hey, I'm mayor! You can't run the meeting just because you are still wearing that "vote for me for mayor" T-shirt. I won the election, remember? Anyway, who wants to speak?

Resident 1: Good evening. I represent BURG -- Blacksburg United for Responsible Grub -- and I don't think we should have a diner in town that serves actual food. We all know that food can be bad for you if you eat too much or eat the wrong kinds, and frankly I just don't think we want to take the chance on it.

Resident 2: I also represent BURG and I think it would be a shame to subject our residents to the sort of people who would be attracted to a diner that served food. Do you realize that people would actually be eating in there? Think of the effect on our children!

Resident 3: I also represent BURG and I am very afraid of what could happen in a place like this. I mean, no matter what he says, the developer has not promised not to serve food in this diner, and I'm not sure we want such a deceitful proprietor in our town. If we let them serve food, the next thing you know they'll be serving drinks, like maybe sweet tea!

Resident 4: I just want to remind each of you that since only 10 people vote in the local elections, and since eight of them are my cousins, you should do whatever I say, if you catch my meaning. And my cousins and I don't want no stinking diner selling food in our town. Right, future mayor?

Councilman: Sorry, did you say something? I was busy pretending that I didn't write that speech for you.

Mayor: Give me back my gavel. Now, since nobody has yet said anything that makes any sense, I declare the public comment portion of the meeting to be closed and we will take a vote.

Councilman: I don't really think that will be necessary. Mwa-ha- ha....

Previews of next week's show include a spirited debate over whether or not the new Bijou Theater will be restricted to show only Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth."

Yes, the Blacksburg Town Council Show is a real hoot. Unfortunately, new episodes are available only twice a month. Of course, there is already a spin-off show called the Blacksburg Planning Commission Show.

I predict a short run for the Planning Commission Show, since it consists mainly of professional people calmly discussing various detailed issues and arriving at a reasonable consensus that conforms to legal requirements and holds with good common sense.

There's just no place for that sort of thing in Blacksburg.

Michael Miller is a freelance writer who lives in Montgomery County.

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