Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Media Mulch

By Jim Hanas

JUNE 1, 1998:  The Teletubbies are finally here. And despite the ink that’s already been spilled on the four cathode-fitted gnomes, no amount of reading can prepare you for how strange the show really is.

If you have not yet heard, the Teletubbies are what the British came up with when they realized the Spice Girls’ demographics weren’t running quite young enough. The show began airing in Memphis last Monday. It is aimed at 1- and 2-year-olds and features four brightly colored creatures – Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa, and Po – who live on an Astroturf meadow, speak gibberish, get ordered around by Orwellian loudspeakers, and – of course – receive wholesome transmissions from an aluminum pinwheel, which are then broadcast on the television monitors in their stomachs. It’s the strangest children’s program since H.R. Pufnstuf, easy. And it has drawn lots of criticism, both for its inanity and for its perceived mission of indoctrinating soft-brained toddlers into our loathsome media culture.

Dipsy, Laa-Laa, Po, and Tinky Winky

As for the show’s inanity, I think that’s called knowing your market. As for worries about indoctrination, on the other hand, those critics might be on to something. Despite its British origin, Teletubbies has to be the most Japanese show ever conceived by English-speakers. The Tubbies themselves look like some sort of live-action Japanimation, and the show’s underlying technophilia fits nicely in a world of virtual pets and virtual pop-stars. And when that pinwheel starts to spin, the Tubbies let out a collective squeal that is the emotional equivalent of a screeching modem. It’s like Sesame Street for the first generation to be born wired.

But despite all the backlash – just run a search on the Internet and you’ll see – the show is probably more or less harmless, as its defenders claim; just four adorable bio-cybernetic mutants having a grand old time in a world of fake grass and real bunnies. That is, at least until a few decades from now when dance clubs and coffee bars are jammed full of twentysomething punks with HDTV screens set into their midriffs. It could happen. (Teletubbies currently appears on WKNO-TV Channel 10 at 10 a.m., Monday thru Friday.)

And The Horse He Rode In On

You can lead a horse to … well … whatever. Last Friday was the day The Jerry Springer Show had planned to air its most over-the-top installment ever, which is saying something. The episode, titled “I Married A Horse,” covers the topic of bestiality and features a man who claims to have a sexual relationship with a horse. Predictably, some stations around the country began announcing they would not air the episode early last week.

WPTY Channel 24, for example, had already decided to run the alternate episode, “Past Guests Do Battle.” “It’s pretty disgusting,” says 24’s director of operations Marshall Hart of the more-controversial-than-usual episode, averring that the low-point was the “French kiss.” Imagine that.

Anyway, the controversy in the making became a moot point last Thursday morning when the episode was pulled nationally, presumably because so many stations had already opted out, although a spokesperson for the show would not comment.

A long-overdue defeat for Springer? Hardly. You think the latest Springer video is hard to catch at the video store? Well, giddyup.

Return of the Radio Pirates

Free Radio Memphis is back on the unlicensed airwaves near the University of Memphis. The station, which broadcasts at 94.7 FM, returned to the air Monday. It ceased broadcasting last month so that its studio and transmitter could be moved. No doubt the feds will catch up with the station in short order, not that it seems to matter. The Federal Communications Commission knew FRM’s previous location for months, and even sent an agent to visit, but never took legal action.

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