Cyclops: It’s about Television


AD 2005, Volume 4, Issue 3

In 1921 Mormon boy-genius Philo Farnsworth, was plowing his father’s fields in southern Idaho when he chanced upon an idea. He had been reading the works of Plank and Einstein, trying to learn the new theories on electrons, when in a moment his study and his plowing bonked heads. What if electrons could be fired in rows, the same way a plow cultivates a field? Farnsworth consumed the next twenty years in the race to build the first television. But few know the name Philo Farnsworth because the evil David Sarnoff, then president of RCA, tried to steal his invention. Sadly, when Farnsworth finally defeated Sarnoff in court, World War II began. By the time the world had recovered, Philo’s patents had expired, and Sarnoff dupped the public into thinking the eggheads at RCA invented it. Farnsworth lived in obscurity till his death 1971.

Farnsworth brought moving pictures into the home. Little did he know the monster he was making. Television and movies both show moving images. Both entertain. But the similarities end here. Consider, first, that film watchers pay before the show, while TV is free, so long as the viewer becomes a customer. If he will not, TV fails. Second, one may go to a mall to see a movie, but TV is a mall that moves into the home. Third, a successful movie must tell a good story, but successful television need only keep eye balls staring till the next commercial. TV depends on the marriage of programming and commercials. Commercials pay for programs while programs draws commercial viewers.

Once upon a time, America blessed the marriage of commercials and programing. The couple moved into the American home, and modern media culture was born. We struggle to recognize the impact of this on our lives because commercialism is our culture. How does one preach the gospel when the means of communication must be purchased, and at such high prices? What theology does postmodern media culture teach? Are advertisers trying to get us to think more biblically? Is television redeemable?

To help us answer these questions we are joined by Craig Detwieler, chair of the radio, television and film department at Biola university, and also Dean Batali, the Writer/Producer of That Seventies Show. Along with the usual extras, we offer you…well you’ll see.

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Product Description

01 Invitation: Why Television and Movies Are Not the Same.
02 Cultural Exegesis: Watching Television with an Open Bible.
03 Apology for Including Commercials in the Pub.
04 Commercial: NPR.ORC.
05 Shows About Nothing by Thomas Hibbs.
06 Interview: Craig Detwieler, author of A Matrix of Meanings: Finding God in Pop Culture.
07 Anecdote: T. S. Elliot on Television.
08 Commercial: The Serrated Edge Study Bible.
09 Interview: Dean Batali, Writer/Producer of That Seventies Show.
10 Where to find more of the interviews (thankfully you’re already here).
11 Something to Think About.
12 Intro to A Gargoyle Story.
13 A Gargoyle Story
14 Credits


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