If, like I am, you are an insatiable watcher of cable news and other panel shows, then you, too, have been invited into the homes of the Talking Heads. Thanks to the magic of Zoom and its ilk, it’s no longer necessary for the various experts to appear at the studios of CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, or Stephen Colbert. Instead, they can remain safely at home during this time of COVID and fortunately, we don’t have to be deprived of their wisdom.
They can expound on the latest headlines of the day, or discuss their new tell-all books from the safety of their houses or apartments while we, through the prism of the TV screen, become unwitting voyeurs, catching glimpses into their lifestyles.
As a result, there are those moments when I lose track of the in-depth analyses they proffer because I’m busily scrutinizing the paintings and the various tchotchkes (decorative, but useless objects) that adorn the homes of these experts.
I suppose if one is letting America enter into the sanctity of one’s own home, there are serious decisions to be made about the back drop. Like, where do I sit? Which room best reflects my persona? What does my sofa say about me? And definitely remember to remove all plants that haven’t been watered in three months.
It appears that one of the more favored spaces from which to be televised are kitchens. In my hours of viewing I’ve observed a spectrum of styles ranging from the warm, if somewhat old-fashioned decor of a particular former Senator, to the very modern, sleek, industrial-type that seems to be preferred by at least two political analysts.
It’s the latter type about which I wonder. These kitchens are perfect, perhaps too perfect? I mean, where’s the coffee maker? The toaster? Not an exposed appliance to be found on any surface. Instead, there’s a vase with fresh sunflowers. Or a perfectly placed pineapple on the island counter, next to a bowl of perfectly unblemished fruit. Does the room always look like this, or have they hired a stylist to determine the optimal location for that pineapple? And did she also decide that pineapples were more photogenic than, let’s say, a watermelon?
With nary a crumb to be found anywhere, the thought does occur to me that perhaps these aren’t their real kitchens at all, but in fact, they are sitting on a counter stool in some decorator showroom.
Kitchens are fine, but it seems if you really want your weighty words to be taken seriously, choose to be interviewed in the room where the books are stored. There’s nothing like sitting in front of floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall book cases filled with hard-covered editions to convey the message that wisdom resides here.
And these bookcases are themselves impressive. Most look custom-made of fine wood, not the do-it-yourself Ikea jobs that always seem to have left-over pieces even when you think you’ve carefully followed the directions.
But as impressive as all that custom cabinetry may be, there is once again inherent distraction. As with the artwork and the tchotchkes (defined above), I find there are times when my concentration is focused, not on the implication of the latest CDC report, but on trying to read the titles.
No light reading here. These books look quite serious. After all, how believable would someone be, sitting before the “50 Shades” trilogy, paperback edition, as opposed to the lives of German philosophers and all three books in the Hilary Mantel Cromwell series. Hard cover.
If a particular guest has recently written a political expose, then multiple copies will of course be prominently featured, casually facing forward on a lower shelf.
I also become fixated on the placement of the books. Some bookcases are crammed from side to side, while others clearly have been “arranged.” I wonder if the same stylist who places the fruit also decides which books should be slanted, which should lay face up, and when and where to place the family photos.
So if, one day, I might be called upon to be a stay-at-home guest on one of these broadcasts (most unlikely), which would be my most flattering backdrop? Rather than my kitchen, I believe I would choose the image conveyed by sitting in front of a bookcase. Unfortunately, my shelves would be empty, unless I can figure out a way to display my vast collection of ebooks. If not, there’s always the tchotckes!