Last night I watched the TNSFKAMST (Thursday Night Shows Formerly Known as Must-See TV). To be honest I’d forgotten it was Green Is Universal week; I was just indulging in a little sitcom sitdown. But there was no escaping the green message, and it was … what’s the word? … artificial and painful and forced.
Three of the four shows — My Name Is Earl, 30 Rock, and Scrubs — took the over-the-topness over the top, having fun at their bosses’ expense and doing the movement no favors. Earl was forced to wedge a green message into a school program about prison. David Schwimmer showed up on 30 Rock as an obnoxious, rigid, predictably narrow-minded green superhero who was a hit with the Today show crowd (and yes, that made me wince); Al Gore swooped in to add substance to his message, but promptly disappeared to save the whales. On Scrubs, Janitor turned his life into an eco-crusade, complete with Scout-style badges, only to learn that it’s daunting and overwhelming and people don’t really listen. Only The Office took a different route, with a bizarre — but refreshing, given its context — tale about finding oneself in the woods.
Throughout the evening, NBC aired mock PSAs featuring stars of the shows giving useless advice about going green. Seizure-inducing “tips” flashed at the bottom of the screen during the shows as well, and earnest ads from corporate giants touted various levels of eco-cred.
What were we to make of it all? At the end of night, I just felt depressed. All this attention on green issues is amazing, it really is — when you see a Wal-Mart ad in prime time with a woman talking up a CFL bulb, you know things have changed. But is the messaging nothing more than the same old “greens are self-righteous prigs” shtick? Is the backlash against the popularity of green just a reversion to the pre-popularity mindset? I thought the conversation was changing. Now I’m not so sure.