Remember When Live Entertainment Was the Only Entertainment?

We were looking through advertisements for new television sets. Our 55 inch (which is really 54.6 inches, but under the Supreme Court’s 1983 decision in Accuracy v. Simplicity, the decimal point gets rounded up) was starting to look a little dated. The faceless demon hounds from the upside-down universe in Stranger Things were not looking as threatening as they should, and what should have been high-definition sound was so delayed and garbled that singing along with the theme to My Little Pony was next to impossible.
So at the next meeting of our community’s Joint Committee on Unnecessary Purchases, our application to buy a new television set was approved, 8-7, and we were officially in the market for a new entertainment center.
The first thing we needed to decide was how many inches we wanted the tv set to be. A screen of 70 inches would be a significant step up in resolution, and would also qualify us to vote in local elections. Screens of 75 inches were also popular, and 80 inches was our neighborhood average, as reported by hackers when their ransom demands were not met.
After taking the required course (“A New TV: Your Window to Humanity”) and watching thousands of reviews, we decided on a TV called “The Globe 9000” boasting unparalleled definition and a diagonal of 118 inches that would give us the largest screen for miles around, as soon as the town building office issued us the permit to knock down a wall.
The workers wanted to keep it a secret so they didn’t tell us they were going to be setting up the tv until they were already there. I was amazed that they were able to do this. It was the first time that I had ever been asked while signing the credit card receipt that I would not be allowed to watch the workers set up the tv because it was supposed to be a surprise.
But I let them do it and when they handed me the remote control at first I did not know what to do. I pushed power, and the tv came on, but instead of a screen coming to life with light there was a curtain and the curtain parted and it revealed four people inside the tv. Like, four regular people.
“My good sir, thank you for choosing the Globe 9000,” said on the people, a man with a deep, booming voice. He was dressed like Pinocchio. “And what shall be your choice of entertainment tonight?”
“Um, well I usually watch Game of Thrones on Sunday night.”
“Very good, sir,” he said, and all four of them got into position. A woman with long blonde hair said to the man with the booming voice, “When you play the Game of Thrones, you either win, or die,” and then she brandished a sword and stabbed him. But she didn’t really stab him. Rather, she stuck the sword in between the man’s arm and torso, so it just looked like she was stabbing him. But nevertheless the man said, “Aaaagh! I am slain!” and feel to the floor while the other two people watched in shock. After a few seconds of twitching on the floor of this tv, the leading man got up and all four of them got into a line and bowed in unison. I applauded and a fifth person ran out – from where? I don’t know. From further inside the tv I guess – and handed the blonde haired lady a bouquet of flowers.
Then the leading man said, “And that, was Game of Thrones.” I pushed another button, the one that said “Channel up.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” said the leading man, “but you shall have to try tomorrow, after the players have had a chance to rest.”
“So I can only watch one show a day?”
“Sir, we actors must rest. It is exhausting performing.”
The next day I turned on the Globe 9000 and the same four people were there. I don’t know where they had slept since the previous day.
I wanted to watch Fixer Upper. Don’t ask me why. Okay, it was my wife’s choice. She loves that show. So she said to the actors inside the tv, “I want to watch Fixer Upper.”
The actors immediately started to pantomime fixing a house. One was hammering nails into an invisible wall. Another was painting an invisible wall. And the other two were pretending to carry something heavy, a table from the looks of it.
Then they went out of their positions, and paired up one woman to one man. One of the pairs stood together holding their hands with their eyes closed. And the other pair stepped in front of them and pretended to pull something apart in opposite directions, as if to reveal something to the other two. Clearly one couple was intended to be the homeowners and the other couple was supposed to be Johanna and Chip. The homeowners then opened their eyes, and had a big look of surprise on their faces. They were jumping up and down, and hugging each other, and hugging “Johanna” and “Chip” and even looked like they were crying a bit.
Then it ended and the four of them joined hands in a line, and took a bow, and I applauded and then they drew the curtain and that was all the tv for the day.
The next morning I called the store and said that I wanted to return the Globe 9000 in exchange for a regular 80 inch. Heck, I’d even take a 75 inch. Clean exchange. No refund of the difference in price. Just get me back to regular television.
After going through several layers of employees who happily told me that there was nothing they could do, I was connected with the manager, who said there was nothing he could do at this time, which gave me a lot of hope because it implied that in the future perhaps something could be done.
But I soon realized the store would not take the tv back voluntarily. So I tried to sell it on eBay, but the listing violated the eBay terms of service, and my account was deleted. Then I sued the store under a variety of legal theories, such as failure to disclose that the television was just four people living inside it. But the negative publicity – especially when it was revealed that I was not feeding the actors, and I was subjected to the humiliation of a witty Twitter hashtag campaign – was too much to bear.
I was just going to have to accept that this was going to be my television for the foreseeable future. I clicked it on, and said that I didn’t care what I watched, just make it interesting. So the leading actor stood by himself and pretended to hold a remote control and click it at the other three, who would do one thing, then another, then another, switching to a new pretend scene every time the lead actor clicked the “remote.”
Yes, I saw it now. They were making fun of me. Yes, I suppose it was funny. It is good to laugh, even if it is just at yourself.
When we pulled the curtain back, a group of live actors took the stage.
They looked so real, I reached over to touch one.
“Hey! What are you doing?” he said to me.
“Um, nothing.”
“How would you like it if I just touched you for no reason?”
“I wanted to know if you were real.”
“Well, I am real. What is it to you?”
So we live with a television that has real actors inside it. The menu of movies and tv shows is exactly the same: Game of Thrones, Altered Carbon, Bubble Guppies. I can select whatever I want. Except instead of it actually being the show, it is these little actors inside the television acting it out. I have to say that the performance is not bad. What it lacks in special effects it more than makes up for in passion.

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