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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

This is “America’s Most Wanted”

Published: February 6, 2009
Section: Arts, Etc.

diverse-city-2-6-09final_page_3_image_0001There are some events in life that for no particular reason leave me uneasy and anxiety stricken. These can be as simple as watching a college football player tear his ACL or as convoluted as listening to someone who has been single their whole life describe the emotional state they find themselves in after spending the night with a significant other (although perhaps that is uncomplicated as well).

Generally, I try to avoid situations that would lead to these feelings of discomfort. I find it is better for not only myself but also for the select few who are privy to how my uneasiness is externalized (nail biting, heavy breathing, and a feeling that my pores are drowning in a sea of worry). It is strange then to tell you that when I am channel surfing on Saturday nights (alone, naturally), and I stop on Fox to see the host of America’s Most Wanted (the longest running show on Fox), John Walsh, that a certain calm overtakes me.

To be clear, I’ve never actually watched a full episode of America’s Most Wanted. To be even clearer, I am not calm because I know that there are people who are considered armed and dangerous running from the authorities (I promise I do not have such a wicked agenda. Seriously, go catch bad guys now). America’s Most Wanted most reminds me of high school. Walking through the school hallways and hearing the same songs being blasted from computers and the mouths of students is not unlike sitting down and hearing the theme music to America’s Most Wanted being played every Saturday (except the music in the halls is a little more catchy). High fiving my favorite English teacher in the hallways until I graduated is not unlike seeing John Walsh every week on my television set (except John Walsh has way better hair and probably a weaker grasp of Faulkner novels). Is it apparent yet as to why I, a person who easily falls into anxiety, can sit down and watch a full episode of America’s Most Wanted without changing the channel?

The tranquility that overcomes me when I look at the TV guide and see America’s Most Wanted airing in the same time spot it has for years is not linked to what the show is actually about. The significance is in the fact that the show is still produced for the public. It is not calming to know there are dangerous people running around (far from it). The calm comes from knowing that long lasting memories (of high school perhaps) or long lasting television shows (as is the case with America’s Most Wanted) are both constants. Stability promotes a level of comfort no matter what form it takes.

Thus, the unease that hits me from seeing a sports injury or from hearing a story about a sexually active friend I’ve known all my life does not exclusively come from what I’m witnessing. Much of it comes from the expectations I have for these situations. If the football players get up, if my friend gets his heart broken, and even if I sit down to watch America’s Most Wanted, things feel routine, however paradoxical that may sound in the latter case.

While I long for the day when John Walsh’s show won’t be necessary, I know that when it finally does go off air, a chill may find its way up my back.