Once a buzzard appeared as a guest host on a prime-time “felony whodunit” show. The selection was considered a no-brainer, given this particular carrion-seeker’s long career in film and television as a craggy, gravel-voiced tough guy. And the buzzard was, obviously, a natural when it came to pursuing what it called “odoriferous malefactors,” whether already dead or still alive. In the opening sequence of the show, the buzzard, sitting in a comfortable chair, looked unflinchingly into the camera and gravely stated, “In our media saturated age, the court of public opinion demands a new definition of the term habeas corpus. ‘Have the body’ now covers all involved, including the victim, the accused, the families of both, plus the families of the judge and jurors, and any public relations firms or instabiographers retained by any of the above, their relatives, neighbors, high school sweethearts, or persons unknown or simply yet to be discovered. We pledge to follow the trail wherever it leads and to share with our audience whatever we find. A warning: some of what you are about to see may be disturbing.” Then it was off on the search. The buzzard, conveying a determination to do its own detective footwork, rose from the armchair it was sitting in and hopped off the studio set as best it could. In succeeding scenes, it would appear in various settings relevant to the investigation, asking questions of principals in the case and examining victims wherever they lay. At times the buzzard’s efforts might be complicated by the appearance of other buzzards flocking to document the same case and hopping noisily about the front yard of a crime scene with microphones or video cameras at the ready. Binge-watchers of the program often showed up as well with their smartphones in hopes of becoming YouTube sensations by uploading whatever raw footage they could. Presented with this spectacle at home, many viewers began to wonder if they themselves might wake up one morning to find the front lawn destroyed by this crowd lurching forward to habeas their corpus too. Would they feel compelled to open the door in their pajamas and present themselves to whatever awaited them? Would the answer to any hesitation on their part be some variation of “You have no choice. Nobody can escape today’s round-the-clock sleuthing cycle. Leave your set or device on long enough and you’ll be watching your own life picked clean in minutes. No use complaining when that happens. This thing’s bigger than any of us as individual buzzards, don’t you understand?” As for the audience ratings of the guest episode hosted by the buzzard, they were off the charts.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans