WASHINGTON, DC–Pressure is building for the nation's TV networks to offer a formal apology and reparations to the four generations of Americans who lost millions of hours to inane sitcoms.
"We, on behalf of this nation's 215 million Telecaust victims, demand extensive reparations from the perpetrators of these heartless and falsely heartfelt programs," said Meredith Bishop, 47, president of Americans For Sitcom Reparations (AFSR). "For hours wasted staring at mind-numbing swill, for idiotic pap promoted as outrageous romps, for an unending parade of very special episodes, season-ending cliffhangers, and celebrity walk-on appearances, we demand justice be served at long last."
AFSR leaders are calling for each Telecaust survivor to receive a minimum of $8,900 for his or her suffering. Under the AFSR plan, an additional $350 million would go toward the creation of a memorial to time killed during the Sitcom Era and toward educational programs designed to raise awareness and help prevent future sitcom crimes.
"The big TV networks can never erase the pain they have caused," said attorney Ben Feuerstein, who is representing the American public in what is believed to be the largest class-action lawsuit ever filed. "But at the very least, they can demonstrate an ounce of regret and repentance for their crimes by compensating those who, for decades, have suffered through everything from Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. to Herman's Head."
Said Tampa, FL, resident Helen Neimaier, who lost more than 20,000 hours to sitcoms from 1951 to 1998: "Every night, it was something different, yet completely the same: Mrs. Roper would mistakenly think Jack was giving Chrissie love lessons when he was actually giving her cooking lessons. Or Webster would learn an important lesson about playing with fire. But we were given nothing of substance to watch. And we would go to bed, only to begin again the next night at 8 p.m., 7 Central and Mountain."
Added Neimaier: "And, oh, the spinoffs... always, there were spinoffs."
Bishop said the AFSR is also calling for the establishment of a special air-crimes tribunal to bring "every last network executive" to justice. At last year's Burbank Trials, many major TV producers were tried and convicted, including Garry Marshall, who was executed by firing squad after 20 million witnesses identified his programs from a mid-'70s Tuesday-night lineup.
"The Flying Nun, Just The Ten Of Us, Small Wonder... it is all too easy to forget the crimes of the past," Bishop said. "If we are to prevent them from happening again in the future, we must keep such atrocities fresh in our minds."
Despite the groundswell of support for reparations, network apologists are proving a vocal group, as well.
"Punishing the networks for the crimes of the past would only serve to reopen the wounds of shame they still feel," said Sean Wilheit, professor of media studies at Syracuse University. "Do you think the NBC executives responsible for The Single Guy are proud of what they've done? Of course not. There's no point in antagonizing these guilt-ridden, basically decent people by continuing to rub their past sins in their faces."
Bishop, however, strongly disagreed.
"We cannot, and should not, erase the scars of the episode of Silver Spoons where Ricky becomes a stand-up comedian," Bishop said. "In fact, we must do just the opposite and remain ever-vigilant, striving to ensure that we stop the Urkels of tomorrow before they gain power. Only by demanding full accountability can we reverse the shameful legacy of man's inanity to man."