There is a website called OnHDTV.tv that claims it “provides show reviews and previews, HDTV-specific viewing recommendations, HDTV news and HDTV shopping tips, among other consumer information.”
It’s what the world needs now, I guess.
One of the services OnHDTV offered this past month was, of course, a list - and where would the internet be without lists? - the “ top 10 celebrities who look even better in High-Definition TV,” accompanied by a list of those who look worse.
Topping the “best” list was tennis star Anna Kournikova: “Her skin is glistening and luscious. It's easy to see why her matches sell out despite her limited talents. It's not love-15; it's love Anna.”
(I always try to picture the writer at work when I read a sentence like that, with its painful attempt to force a joke-like trope out of some familiar aspect of its subject. What sentences did he or she reject, I wonder? “On court, or on high-def, Anna will ace it every time.” “Advantage, Anna!” “It’s a close-up grand slam for Anna.”)
Angelina Jolie is also on the list. After describing her as “breathtaking,” the writer then issues a caveat: “The only negative: The actress has a small mole on her forehead. In high-def, it looks like Mt. Everest.”
So one of HDTV's pleasures, apparently, is givng the viewer the ability to pore over the pores of the rich and famous. And if you’re a critic watching, you get to praise the beautiful and sneer at them simultaneously.
Then there’s the other list.
On HDTV, Carmen Diaz “looks more like a Charlie than an angel.” Britney Spears: “The pop tart is still in her early 20s, but she looks about 10 years older in high-def.” William Devane, “who once played John F.Kennedy in a docudrama about the Cuban Missile Crisis, should duck and cover the next time they ask him to star in a HDTV program.” Jamie Lee Curtis? “Christopher Guest, be my guest. Buy your wife some Botox! And, a wig!” And, of course, Joan Rivers. “Do you remember that song, ‘Old Man River?’ Well, how about, ‘Old Woman Rivers?’”
Clearly, the author’s inventiveness started to flag by the end. Rhyming “Guest” with “guest” is not worth the punch in the nose Mr. Guest may give the writer should the two ever meet. As for the “Old Woman Rivers” crack, well, it does reach new depths of witlessness, I suppose. But this achievement is cancelled out, in my opinion, by its tin-eared clunkiness.
I’ve never quite understood the appeal of these kinds of lists myself, and I certainly don’t believe that a celebrity’s luminosity, or lack of it would be a factor in your shelling out 1500 t0 4000 bucks for a high-def television.
But there’s a larger puzzle: if this is just a campaign to push HDTV, doesn’t it seem awfully malicious? These are the sort of catty remarks we used to whisper behind people’s backs. Now we belt out gratuitous insults for the cheap seats. It’s as though the physical flaws of our movie stars indicate some kind of moral failure.
Maybe thanks to the internet, broadband, and HTDV, we have become convinced that movie stars can actually physically interact with us, that they will do our bidding if we are snarky enough. Sandblast those acne scars, you skank! Get off my television, old wrinkly man!
And someday, if we wish hard enough, and if our sarcasm is polished enough, we will be able to examine our stars subcutaneously, scrubbing and mocking until every last one of them is blemish-free, even on a subatomic level.
Then, finally our viewing pleasure will be as perfect as we are. We will all be locked together, gazers and gazed, in the darkened living room, forever.