Picks and Pans Main: Tube

updated 07/04/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/04/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The incessant advances of technology and tabloidism have made television both a stronger and stranger medium than ever before. (It's heresy to think of Walter Cronkite leading off the CBS Evening News with an empty update on Tonya Harding as his successors did a few months ago—but then Waller wouldn't have had the fresh footage from Portland to make Tonya's tawdry travails a viable TV item.) Satellites and celebrities choke our video firmament and the heavens are eclipsed.

Yet in years of TV watching, I have seen few spectacles as surreal as the one that NBC News interrupted game five of the NBA Finals to show us. (Of course, NBC was far from alone.) It was not the sight of the white Bronco drifting along on the Los Angeles freeways followed closely by a flying wedge of police cruisers that made this footage so disquieting. Nor was it the angry flock of TV and police helicopters buzzing overhead. It wasn't even the twisted irony of Marv Albert and Tom Brokaw playing tag team between the basketball championship and the absolute abasement of one of our most beloved sports heroes. No, what made this sad processional so haunting was the presence of hundreds of spectators, drawn to the scene by the live TV coverage, their cars parked on every overpass, frontage road and exit ramp, boisterously cheering on a fugitive from a savage double murder. It's a frightening thought, but it's just possible we get the television we deserve.

From Our Partners