Sunday morning remains one of the last fallow fields of television; in fact, in a more sane society, we might actually just let all of broadcasting go dark for those few hours, not out of any deference to Christian tradition, but just to see what it might be like--psychologically, sociologically, biologically--to have a brief window each week when the media would just shut the hell up.  Of course, this will never happen as long electricity still exists, and we can all look forward to the media continuing to proliferate exponentially until the Sun explodes and the planet finally loses service once and for all.  

Historically in the United States, Sunday morning is where the networks bury their public affairs programs like Meet the Press and Face the Nation.  Local broadcasters have done the same, typically even earlier in the morning, pitting the back-up news anchor against a city council member to debate the mayor's new wastewater bond initiative--the type of program vigilantly monitored by area cranks before they fly a Piper Cub into the local IRS facility.  Cartoons and church figure in the mix as well, of course.

For much of broadcast history, Sunday morning was also one of the first blocks to trade in "lifestyle" programming, although its target audience would have been loathe to think of it that way.  In addition to religion and politics, Sunday morning has been a traditional home for those who enjoy shooting animals, fishing fish, and fixing various things around the house.  In homage to noted gender psychologist "Larry the Cable Guy," we might call this "git 'er done" television, whether "gittin' 'er done" means shooting and field-dressing a wolverine, replacing the downspouts on the garage, or building a doghouse in the backyard for Rover.

Trucks!, currently running on the Spike network, continues in this fine tradition, targeting its audience prey with a rather elegant narrative formula that speaks to the most uncomplicated aspects of male psychology:  "Hey, let's find an old truck, fix it up, and then drive it around." On other occasions, the plot is more of a masculine dare: "Let's hook that truck up to something really heavy and see if we can tow it." In another episode, an old beater shows us just how much abuse a truck can take at the demolition derby but still keep going.  Simple scenarios with rather limited stakes, you might say, and yet within these parables of men and machines operate a complex network of deeply felt emotional issues about contemporary masculinity.

Like most "git 'er done" television, Trucks! appears to target a demographic slightly older than the 18-24 priapic males that Spike usually seeks to impale.  I would hazard to guess that the prime demo of Trucks!  is married and somewhere in the nebulous region of the middle-aged.  As Nick Browne's canonical article on the TV Supertext would tell us, this herding of paunchy mortgage holders to Sunday morning is wholly to be expected.  This demographic's week typically breaks down thusly: Monday through Friday = paid labor; Saturday = errands and general leisure; Sunday = attending to various "masculine" chores around the domicile (with televised sports used as either a temporary time-out or as the day's ultimate reward).

Of course, as those in that demographic well realize, whatever it is that needs "gittin' done" typically doesn't actually ever git done.  Trips to the mall supervene.  Kids break toes.  The Bears go into overtime.  But the male fantasy that things should and might git done remains strong.  In this respect, these Sunday morning lifestyle programs speak to that vestigial remnant of the male superego that still imagines itself capable of and indeed vital to performing useful labor around the house, or more broadly, the nation.  It's the same impulse, sadly, that can be exploited to make men vote for Republicans simply by circulating pictures of candidates clearing brush, hammering fenceposts, or punching a horse.  In this scenario, men do the difficult and frequently unpleasant things that need doing, chores that women and Democrats, what with their inferior upper-body strength and delicate constitutions, are incapable of doing--hard jobs like chopping wood, disposing of dead animals, or dismantling the welfare state.

Trucks! is a part of something called Powerhouse TV, a production company that also churns out  Horsepower, Muscle Car and Xtreme 4x4.  Judging by their website, I would say the other three shows skew a bit younger, attracting those viewers interested in enjoying muscles, power, and X-tremeness (like the guy above who looks to be shredding on an air strut).  Trucks!, however, is particularly suited to an older demographic since older men so easily identify with trucks.  Both are solid and sturdy, roadtested work-horses, ruggedly handsome, bearers of burdens large and small, a bit dented and weatherworn, perhaps, but still looking down the road with a lot of miles left on the odometer.  One episode of Trucks! is called "Second Chance Silverado," a title that could refer either to restoring an old Chevy or to a 50-something gunfighter who has to shoot a couple of young punks for playing their goddamn honky tonk music so loud when decent folk are trying to sleep.

In the episode I watched the other day, the hosts had just finished refurbishing the 1966 Chevy C-10 pick-up truck pictured at top.  I don't know how old those guys are, but for anyone in their 40s, 50s, or older who actually has a memory of those trucks on the road, this image cannot help but conjure a certain nostalgia for an era when it seems like it was much simpiler to be either a man or a truck.  Back then, if your truck's suspension went out, you fixed it with a wrench and copious cursing, not by taking it to the dealer to run a "diagnostic" of the on-board computer.  By the same token, men of that era usually had enough sense to drop dead before their prostate turned traitor or they could no longer yank the pullchord on the lawnmower. Also at work, no doubt, is the fantasy that manly men used to work with tools and actually make things, way back before computers and consumerism made guys more concerned about software updates than keeping the septic line properly snaked.

It is a variation on the same fantasy that makes Don Draper such a perverse role model for the early 21st-century, recalling a time when men fixed the TV by kicking it or kept a mistress in check by dragging her into the coatroom and grabbing her crotch.  Like so much popular memory, most of this is bullshit.  Still, even for those who do not necessarily hunger for the days when straight white guys had a mechanical and ideological answer for everything, seeing an old truck lovingly restored obviously provides a great opportunity for a little self-reflection on one's own mileage.  You know, if I cut back on the fried foods, got some more exercise, and started on the Rogaine,  I would probably look and feel ten years younger myself.  No time like the present.  It's Sunday.  I guess I could get a good start on the exercise by cleaning out the attic today.  Somebody's got to git 'er done, and Lord knows the wife or the boy aren't going to crawl up there in this heat to start sorting through all those old boxes.  Yep, I'll get to it right after the next commercial.  zzzzzzzz.

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