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PBS Pledge Week = Geezer Rock Overload   (December 3, 2005)

It's PBS Pledge Week, and that means a solid week of oldie Rock shows. Best of Motown, Doo-Wop, The 60s Experience--Crikey! Are these the only programs which pull in pledges? Doesn't PBS have any viewers under the age of 50?

Yes, I am 51, but frankly, I would gladly give our local PBS affiliate $50 to keep these same old tired shows off the air. I can hardly wait for the technology which will allow two PBS feeds, one for those who find the sight of plump, graying, balding folks standing up to jiggle their ample selves while mouthing the words to 40-year old songs absolutely entrancing, and another feed of the usual NOVA and Nature shows for those of us easily blackmailed into paying just to avoid the sight of aging rockers in grossly tight black jeans strain their vocal chords and other body parts to belt out a forgotten "anthem" or two.

This is not to say I'm against nostalgia rock or geezer rock--I'm all for the truly classic stuff including the occasional retrospective like the Cream Reunion show. Anyone aspiring to play rock guitar improvisation solos will benefit from studying Clapton's techniques, timing, range and expression of emotion. Furthermore, a scan of the audience suggested a large percentage of the attendees were in their 20s or 30s--not at all the overwhelmingly Senior crowd visible in the Doo-Wop and "3 Dog Night"-filled nostalgia shows aired back-to-back, seemingly night after night.

Others defend the right of rock greats to continue entertaining audiences with their old hits, just as Tony Bennett and B.B. King are welcomed and revered. Here is one solid defense of geezer rock.

A glance at Sir Paul McCartney's recent playlist is impressive, ranging from ballads to "Helter Skelter," the original of which burns like few other rock songs ever.

More troubling than the saturation of PBS airwaves by second-rate oldies shows is what that saturation says about the PBS viewer demographic. Are there no music programs with current artists available? If not, why doesn't PBS "Great Performances" schedule some showcases of new rock talent?

The answer appears to be that few young people watch PBS anymore, and even fewer kick in cash during Pledge Weeks. So PBS is relying on aging Boomers to fund their operation, and apparently nothing opens the Boomer wallet like wallowing in musical nostalgia.

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copyright © 2005 Charles Hugh Smith. All rights reserved in all media.

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