As I pledged, I watched ABC’s “news special” Earth: 2100 Tuesday night
And as I had been told by someone at ABC after my first blog on the show, it had only a snippet of Web-submitted doomsday scenarios on the future of the planet. But ABC had plenty of doom-and-gloom scenes of its own fashioning.
The two-hour program struck me as Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards meets one of those animated versions of a storybook on Captain Kangaroo. Think The Little Global Engine That Couldn’t, or Make Way For Armageddon. There was even some Lorax thrown in as we were asked to envision the last tree being cut down on Easter Island.
By 2100, says the show, the earth has been raped and left for dead, a victim of inattention and hubris and climate change, mostly climate change, with an assist from big oil.
The animated story is told through the eyes of Lucy, a baby born June 2, 2009, who lives through the disintegration of the world. New York City, water, the Spotted Owl and Albatrosses, all gone, done in by floods, famines, pesitlence and fossil fuels. Not an unimaginable future, certainly, but was it a news special.
If anyone out there is as old as I am and remembers Wizards, there are defnite similarities. Like Wizards, it is about a bleak picture of a ravaged society. In Wizards’ case, it was technology vs. the forces of earth. Come to think of it, that kind of described Earth: 2100. It also featured sometimes garish colors and animation that is essentially flat illustrations moving against a flat background. It even had a female voice narrating, as did Bakshi’s film.
I got to thinking about why “Lucy.” an evocation of I Love Lucy perhaps, once TV’s First Lady. Or maybe it was Lucy, the first known human.
I’m sure there was no product placement in this earnest attempt to scare us straight to solar panels, electronic cars and victory gardens, but the GPS voice on Lucy’s trek from San Diego to New York sounded exactly like the “drive the highlighted route” voice on my Garmin. Hmmm.
I enjoyed parts of the show, and appreciate the concern for the planet it represents. But was it news?
The problem with this being a news special fronted by Bob Woodruff is that it simply proposes a plausible doomsday scenario then, granting the premise, talks to a bunch of people who describe how that would happen. It is definitely infotainment.
I think ABC had it right over a quarter of a century ago. It presented the TV movie, The Day After, then followed that with a Ted Koppel-hosted discussion about the possibility of nuclear disaster with people like Henry Kissinger, though there is actually only one person like Henry Kissinger, and he’s it. But there was a separation between the entertainment and the news. I was at the live discussion, which give you a sense of how old I am if that affects how you react to this someone curmudgeonly assessment.
Earth: 2100’smix of animation and recreation and punditry was an uneasy mix for me. I liked the moment when a puffy dandelion shed one of its little flyers in front of a blood red and dying New York. Artsy indeed, but is it news.
Of course, I could say that about 20/20, too. The promo for the “news magazine” within Earth: 2100 was for a sex scandal titillatingly promoted as our opportunity to find out what got a young girl in trouble at a party with a college baseball team.
Perhaps if ABC is concerned that their vision of 2100 may come to pass, its news magazines, and others, should transition from focusing on the tabloid crime of the week to actual news stories about the seeds of these doomsday scenarios, including featuring the voices of those who disagree with the premise to begin with–as wrong as they might be–and fewer artsy dandilion. But hey, maybe it’s just me.