The Saving Private Lynch Loop
by Steve Schlich

TV 'n' Me
by Gardner Gordon
Labor Day 2004
Tonight's Episode: Suicide Bomb

Want to watch a four-week train wreck? Of course you do! So tune in to FOX Thursday night at 8:00 p.m. Do it while you can, because this show is doomed. There is no saving Private Lynch. You'll see a couple of episodes before it gets cancelled... maybe the four already made.

The irony is that this impending death is both a crying shame and a richly deserved fate. That's because the reasons that this show should live and the reasons that it should die are one and the same. It is that strange.

It's bad enough when one TV show copies another. Nothing new or honorable about that. But plagiarism is child's play compared with Saving Private Lynch. This show copies itself!

I'm not kidding; I read it in the bible. You heard right—the bible. That's what they call the book of guidelines that every show hands to a scriptwriter along with the assignment to write an episode. The show's bible lays out its rules.

So here it is: the bible for Saving Private Lynch doesn't describe the lead character, or any other character. FOX is rightfully labeling the show something new: SPL is a "series anthology," because a different actor will play Private Lynch from week to week.

A different star of the show every week? That bit of strangeness is the prime reason to watch, and this bit is why the show will die: the plot. There's only one.

  • Conflict: Private Lynch gets captured.
  • Resolution: Private Lynch gets rescued.

That's every episode, folks. No exceptions. It's in the bible and it's as basic as "Boy Meets Girl." And it's one courageous experiment that begins Thursday night at 8 p.m., sacrificed like a brave little David against the Goliath reality show Survivor.

Did I say David vs. Goliath? The appropriate reference is Bambi vs. Godzilla. That's because Private Lynch will be squashed as flat as Bambi was in that infamous 10-second cartoon. It's a pity too, because the first four episodes are promising. Assuming that you like your surprises structured.

Churchgoing folks—the show's supposed demographic—generally don't like surprises. But they do like structure. Private Lynch tries to offer both, and because of that it risks being liked by no one. That's why I think the show is dead meat. It doesn't know what it wants to be.

The premiere episode isn't a fair sample of the craziness I'm talking about. You've already seen it anyway. It's nothing more than a re-edit of the 2-hour TV movie that played last spring, Pfc. Jessica Lynch: Her True Story. What do you mean, you didn't watch it? Somebody must have, a lot of sombodies, otherwise why would FOX build a series around it?

Her True Story is slow even for a TV action movie... a mutant Hallmark/Kodak/Disney dirge to American family values.

At least they removed "True" from the title when they converted it from the movie to an episode. Even when it was front-page news, we all knew about the Army's 2003 red-meat rescue of a terrified West Virginia white girl from a Baghdad hospital. We understood that it was bullshit. That didn't matter. We drank deeply, like Ray Milland during The Lost Weekend.

Propaganda is a necessary wartime tool... in fact, in late 2003 when the real Private Lynch didn't agree with the government's official version of her rescue, she was vilified by everyone who had just finished proclaiming her a hero—especially by hate radio. After all, what are they supposed to do with those three hours every damn day? Rant. Believe me, you would too if you had an oxycontin megadose raging through your bloodstream.

But apple pie plays well in the heartland, even when overdone. They do watch a lot of TV there. The original saving of Private Lynch was a broad-daylight lie brewed up by a band of spinmeisters, and we chugged it like moonshine. Even on the coasts.

Ha! I know how to rant, too. That little diatribe ought to earn me some right-wing hate mail. Bring it on!

But I digress—and just when the tale was getting interesting. The next three episodes of SPL are a radical departure from the basic rules of the pilot. They represent the real arc of the show. And here's the irony: by applying a heavily restrictive formula, the show's bible creates an atmosphere of risky creativity.

Each of the next three shows has Private Lynch captured and then rescued, but they vary wildly in the details:

  • The first real episode turns out to be a dream.
  • The second episode offers an African American Private Lynch.
  • And in the third, Lynch is a lesbian.

Huh? This last idea pitches blasphemy straight at SPL's predicted demographic of heartland churchgoers. What's up with that? Is this the liberal Hollywood idea of medicine that you need to swallow because it's good for you? She does get 'saved' in all ways by the end of the episode, but still...

I admire the guts shown by SPL's producers, but I wonder if they haven't slit their own creative throats. Conservative forces in this country have gotten their act together, and their new power is scary. We'll see if I've slit my own throat by writing this column.

In both cases, a very brief time will tell.

TV 'n' Me
by Gardner Gordon
Labor Day 2006
Tonight's Episode: Channeling GOD

Who do you think you are—God?

You walk in and steal the #1 TV show from a major broadcast network. That's gutsy. Then you use this show to start your own, narrowcast cable network. That's off-the-wall crazy.

It might even be suicide. But wait: I need to be cautious. The last time I predicted the death of a show, it became a #1 hit. A timeslot-dominating, competition-destroying megahit. The show's name, in both stories, is Saving Private Lynch. But you knew that.

Stealing the show may be bold and risky, but an inner voice tells me that it is not crazy. That's because the new network is the GOD Channel. So "crazy" might not be the appropriate word. Let's try: "fanatic." The pious folks who are starting up the GOD channel may be a pack of gambling religious zealots, but they know the sure thing that they are gambling on.

It's no stretch to anticipate a move this heavy-handed from a network that named itself GOD. I mean, you should go all the way or why bother? This strategy paid off in the Nineties, when conservative talk radio earned its constituancy of fanatics by pounding away, hour after hour, day after day, at America's midsection. Hearts and minds were won.

So what do you do? Watch out. This show does not care if you love it or hate it. Kind of like the U.S.

To the world, we are an 800-pound schizophrenic gorilla. In 2001, Afghan peasants were forced to play roulette after we dropped food in bright yellow packets that were the same color and size as the cluster bombs we had dropped just a few days earlier.

Is it any wonder that the third world doesn't trust us?

I know that you know how to send me hate mail. But understand this: I do not hate God. What I hate is how The Deity is being misued by fanatics... and yes, smartass, I do mean the ones Over There just as much as I mean the ones Right Here. If the sandals fit...

But all that is for another column on another day. Let's forget about my impending dismissal and get back to SPL's jump to the GOD channel.

It might actually work.

The show certainly works. President Bush has been using it to sell his War on Terror for some time now—and this tactic has proven highly successful. You dispute that? Then tell me who are we occupying now, and what flimsy excuse did we used to invade. You can't without checking the FOX News website. Oh wait, I can: this year's mop-up is Iran and in case you forgot, we're spreading democracy.

Now tell me how many people are worried to see the U.S. sink deeper into debt. Damned few. Catastrophic success has never been so popular. And I lay that success at the feet of Private Lynch.

Everyone wants this show. Everyone wants the soapbox it represents. You can talk to millions of people, maybe even billions, every week. The packaging is so slick that you can sell whatever you present. Conservatives have been doing this ever since the show premiered. What, you thought those pathetic old liberals would know what to do with a venue as influential as this, even if they could control it? Forget it.

This is a phenomenon. It has something that a lot of Americans want. But what exactly is it that they want? Reassurance? Faith? Revenge? Righteousness? Do we know ourselves? Over the past few years, we've grown more and more like the fanatics we claim to be fighting. Some have killed to demonstrate their opposition to abortion. The attitude: your sin sends me to hell. That's why the religious police beat women.

So be afraid. Be very afraid.

Two years ago today, I urged you to watch Saving Private Lynch for the few episodes that would air before the show died. Today I urge you to watch it with one eye on your conscience because we are being redefined. You may feel good while it's on, but will you respect yourself in the morning?

TV 'n' Me
by Gardner Gordon
Labor Day 2009
Tonight's Episode: The New Tradition

Welcome to Year Six of the phenomenon known as Saving Private Lynch. It began as the show that killed Survivor and wound up as the show that saved TV.

Some FAQs:

Q: How many years has SPL been in the top ten Neilson shows?
A: That's easy—how many years has it been on TV? (Hint: six.)

Q: How do they keep it so original and exciting?
A: It's not exciting, Ace. This show tells the same story each week. They may tell it in a different wayds, with different details and outcomes, but it is the same story. It's often wretched but always compelling.

Here's the irony: by leaving so little that can be original, SPL became a model of creativity. That is not a contradictory statement; that is Prime Time television in the twenty-first century.

It's no accident that shows which were considered daring a few years back—half-hour diatribes such as Die Liberal Scum and I'm Right No Matter What—are now staples in Prime Time. Meanwhile, the old liberal networks struggle desperately to hold onto their ever-shrinking market share. Dinosaurs!

And speaking of dinosaurs, you'll recall what I wrote when SPL premiered waaaay back in 2004. I pronounced it Dead On Arrival.

Success in broadcasting is a nearly impossible trick of nature. Any TV programmer can tell you that, as surely as cream rises to the top and shit flows downhill. Flush a toilet in zero gravity and tell me I'm wrong!

I told you to watch SPL while you could, and you did. In droves! I was convinced that the show was toast, but you made it an instant #1 hit. How could something so relentlessly redundant last past four lousy episodes? Well, I never thought they were lousy. What I misunderestimated was the public taste: you didn't think they were lousy, either.

Half a decade later, SPL just cruised past episode 100 and shows absolutely no sign of fatigue. It defies the law of gravity. Forget allegories. This thing floats, year after year, bubbles refreshingly to the top with Emmy after Emmy, precisely because it is NOT shit.

How is that possible for a one-plot series? What does a show like that offer a restless audience?

  • Stars. Just about everyone who is anyone in Hollywood has done at least one SPL episode. Many have done multiple shows and Jim Caveizel may as well be called a regular.
  • Variety. A single plot doesn't mean you are limited to the same story. Private Lynch has been saved in every way imaginable, and in a few ways that were totally unimaginable least to me.
  • Controversy. In two memorable episodes last season, Private Lynch was a young man. In one of those, he was saved and died anyway—a heaven-bound new disciple of Jesus.
  • Heart. It's what Americans are known for best. We love our flag and each other.
  • Money. People keep watching, sponsors keep reupping, the shows keep rolling out on the conveyor belt. Saving Private Lynch is more than just a lean, moneymaking machine. It's a...
  • Tradition. Candy for Halloween, football for Thanksgiving, Saving Private Lynch for Thursday at 8 p.m. Cancel this show now, and you cancel Christmas.

Thus begins the sixth season for this monster show. It's been at least two years since conservatives, in their generous spirit of compassionate sharing, granted liberals control of some shows. What an uneasy, entertaining mix that situation has made! The season finale was influenced by both factions.

You would think that a jointly-produced show would be doomed by chronic partisan bickering. I sat down with my advance preview, prepared to be bored silly with inoffensive crap endorsed by both sides. Imagine my surprise with a barn-burning season finale. This over-the-top episode was made with unusual cooperation which began with both sides trading a script back and forth.

The sides cooperated magnificently, by not cooperating at all! Both sides agreed to make the same show, feeling that the details supported their viewpoints without needing to be strictly partisan.

It's an interesting approach for an episode: everything happens. Her rifle jams AND she shoots half a squadron of Iraqis before they take her. And the last thing she does before the Capture Blackout (a required event in all episodes) is get down on her knees and pray.

That's a scene we've witnessed many times. But repeat plotlines can have a reassuring effect on us. It's proven: we seek them in our daily life. We get up each morning, drive to work and put in the time. We come home and if a new episode of The Show isn't on tonight, there are plenty repeats to choose from. Or watch it on video.

Beloved ruts! Time spent in one—or in many—can be so comforting. We sleep, we eat, we work, we resist temptation. We watch TV. It's a blessed existence, with no risk. The people of color and the protesters are held at bay elsewhere. The government lowers taxes, cuts programs, and what's left of the liberals complains about our lack of compassion. Their beloved rut. What are we supposed to do, desert our troops? Just like SPL saved TV, the United States is busy saving the world, and believe-you-me that costs money.

Some years it's difficult to remember who we invaded and why, and how much tax money we saved by doing that, but Democracy marches on in the Third World. So be it. We liberate another people, and eventually they begin to find their way toward freedom. You have to let these things happen at their own speed, to let these revolutions pay for themselves.

That's important to remember, just eight months after the third President Bush took office. We are no longer on the edge of a new era; we are up to our cheeks in it, and wading in deeper.

TV 'n' Me
by Gardner Gordon
Labor Day 2016
Tonight's Episode: Not So Mysterious

We all know that the Lord works in mysterious ways. But who thought He would appear in—let alone approve of—a Science Fiction tale about divine intervention?

But that's the subject of the 13th season premiere of Saving Private Lynch. Heresy to some, but this is the risky, groundbreaking material that has made SPL's reputation over the years. Imagine: a war fought by pacifists, without weapons, against an enemy that is armed to the teeth.

Could this be John Lennon's subservient Amerika, where you are ordered to "imagine there's no country ... and no religion too"? What a pathetic place! Tell me, John—how do you rescue a soldier, of either gender, when the enemy carries all the weapons and you have none?

There are no Christian soldiers in the brave new world that subsists at the start of tonight's episode, only girlie men whose souls hold the value of a flimsy t-shirt.

We won't reveal most of the numerous startling twists, but here's one that ought to pique your interest: it's not Private Lynch getting saved tonight, it's Western Civilization. The theme is that important. So important that Mel Gibson came out of retirement to direct. The result is, as you might expect, divine. Watch it!

Not that you would miss an episode anyway. Who has, in the last 12 years? Even the liberals watch, what's left of them. They have to... who wants to risk not knowing what happened on last night's episode, during the morning coffee break?

You could wind up, well, crucified.

This year's innovation is a wonderful new segment: I Speak for God. In it, a Jerry Falwell simulcrum offers his weekly 5-minute essay explaining policy for God. It's like the 60 Minutes segment Five Minutes with the Relics of Andy Rooney, except holier. And it's really helpful to anybody who wonders exactly what the Bible means. Jerry patiently explains why, if you try to interpret God's Will on your own, you'll get it wrong.

SPOLIER ALERT! I can't hold back, I'm so excited about this episode!

But I know none of you stopped. You're going to love this! Here goes:

Liberals seized control of the World Government, and banned guns, over 20 years ago. So now, only terrorists have them.

Private Lynch is captured and threatened, as always. She prays, as always. And God speaks to her, as always. But this time, He speaks directly! (And guess what—he looks like Jerry Falwell.)

God leads Private Lynch to a cache of enemy weapons. After some soul-searching, she uses them to free herself and her fellow soldiers. That helps her convince the U.S. Army to use guns, too. With the briefest of training, they overwhelm an Arab force ten times their strength. Western Civilization and Christianity are saved! The forces of evil go down to utter defeat. Satan scampers off with his hairy red tail between his legs.

Here's what I think: the episode is so far-fetched because Saving Private Lynch continues to try and reach the few remaining nonbelievers out there. But why bother? They're going to Hell anyway.

If TV reflects the tone of America, then SPL has perfect pitch. You can expect a season to remember from this king of kings.

And don't forget to support our brave troops and they march into... uh... Pakistan!

copyright © 2004 by Steve Schlich

ABOUT THE STORY: This is one of the many ways that I am dealing with the 2004 election.