Archive for November 8th, 2010

Slicker Rubes

There was a period in the history of TV when it was not only a monopoly of New York City, it was when no one understood you if you said “New York provincial.” At that time “barbarian” and “sophisticated” had exactly the meaning a college graduate is trained in.

To say a New Yorker was not sophisticated was exactly like saying the Pope is not Catholic.


Only big cities had TV stations. Then the FCC gave out no more for years. The TV licenses were, of course, “free,” meaning the public got no money for these enormously valuable pieces of public property.

Nobody in South Carolina could get TV without an enormous antenna tower aimed at Charlotte. Tiny, broken-down houses would have a sixty-foot piece of metal sprouting out of their roofs. This was so familiar to most of the country that Saturday Evening Post had a cartoon of an outhouse with a huge tower on it.

There was no caption. There didn’t need to be.

Finally the moratorium on licenses was lifted. Columbia got three stations almost simultaneously.

There was an immediate catastrophe in popular programming. Molly Goldberg went under. Milton Berle went under. A guy Murray’s program, sponsored by Manischewitz wine, went under. The whole program list went under.

But the network programmers, responsible for billions of 1950s dollars, learned not a thing from this. Almost every show was placed in New York.

These are the Geniuses Who Control Everything and Never Make A Mistake. The Learned Elders must have been on acid during that period.

TV Guide, almost the country’s only politically conservative magazine, pointed this out in a cover article about 1964, which I remember well. It was a breakthrough. It pointed out that New Yorkers still referred to the territory between New York and Los Angeles as “flyover country.”

That article talked about the giant money losses networks were sustaining by their Big City fixation. By “losses” I mean the media monopoly made less money than it could have.

We are not talking chickenfeed here. These were some of the country’s top executives, and not entirely by cheating.

Being provincial is routine. But for top executives to lose billions of dollars by being provincial demonstrates that there is no one as provincial as a rube who thinks he’s sophisticated.

A large part of our age is explained by rubes who thought they were becoming city slickers by adopting the Little New Yorker mentality.