July 18, 2005


I can’t be the only person thinking, “I get hundreds of TV channels but there’s still nothing on!” How could that possibly be? Andy Warhol predicted the phenomenon years ago when he said, “In the future there will be 100 channels and nothing to watch.” Now there are more than 100 channels, oodles more than we had growing up, yet there’s a fraction of the enjoyable programming! Have our tastes changed so much? Maybe we’d watch indiscriminately when we were in our formative years but now we’re pickier. Or are the airwaves just clogged with trashy reality shows that totally suck? Unfortunately, it’s the latter. The moronic “reality TV” that rules the boob tube now makes Three’s Company look like Masterpiece Theatre. I grew up watching brilliant shows like All in the Family that could make you laugh, cry, and examine social issues of the day—all at the same time. But why should networks bother to spend money on writers to develop great characters and scripts when their audience is mesmerized by bug-eating contests? I think more often than we realize, networks choose reality TV because it’s cheap. This is no secret—the networks are the first to admit it. Blame the infomercial in the ‘80s for starting it all. TV stations, which used to shut down in the wee hours of the morning, learned they could air advertisements as shows. People actually watched, sending the message that they’d tune into any moving picture, no matter how poor. Or should I say soulless and money-obsessed? Take the horrific Gastineau Girls, about two rich bitches (Mom and daughter) whose existence on planet Earth serves no discernable purpose. On one episode, Mama Gastineau shows off an expensive bracelet from a new beau to her ex-beau who asks her, “Doesn’t that make you a hooker?” To which she responds that she’d only be a hooker if she accepted the gift after sex and she hadn’t slept with him yet. Whatever you say, hooker. Her dull and sullen daughter dreams of modeling and actually gets a gig but hates it because she didn’t realize what hard work it is. You sorry bitch! You only got the job ‘cuz you’re on TV, and then have the nerve to turn your snotty nose up at your dream job? Has it really come to this? Is this entertainment? Admittedly, some people lead lives so bizarre that they are indeed interesting to watch. Like Anna Nicole Smith! Fat or thin, that big ol’, bleached blonde Texan goddess could hold my attention if she farted while stripping and slurring on what appears to be a combination of booze and prescription drugs. (Oh wait, she actually did that!) But now you have total losers getting in front of a camera, thinking they have interesting lives. Hell, even Bobby Brown has his own show called Being Bobby Brown. He hasn’t had a hit in years, unless you count one from Whitney’s crack pipe. So the only reason that anyone would tune in is to see Bobby get high. Or go back to jail. Isn’t it kind of sad that that could form the basis of a show? Okay, I have to admit, some reality TV is thought-provoking. Seeing Jane Weidlin help a dwarf pee on The Surreal Life provokes such thoughts as, “What the fuck is this? Why would anyone like it? And how do I get off this planet?” But seriously, shows like Trading Spaces, Extreme Makeover, and Biggest Loser provide useful information on home improvement or plastic surgery. Some illustrate how different people would react to different situations, whether it’s dating or trying to live together on a desert island. But, personally, I’d prefer to see a professional actor heightening the drama of the situations with a script—ordinary people just aren’t as interesting! But it’s not all the fault of the networks. If we sit here and take it, they’ll continue to dish it out. Remember, entertainment can inspire and educate as opposed to bore and infuriate. It may be a little costlier for networks to develop meaningful programming, but viewers get shortchanged if they don’t. The odd thing is that while unreal “reality” TV is sweeping our nation, our national news channels, which ought to be “real,” are churning out Bush’s propaganda masked as news. The government won’t even allow images of wounded soldiers or caskets to be aired because this would underline the grim nature of the war. And that’s reality TV, not Paris Hilton clowning in a pigsty!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are so right. TV is mindnumbingly horrible. Remember on Saturday nights there was "Mary Tyler Moore", then "Bob Newhart", then "The Carol Burnett Show? I'm sure you're far too young to remember, dear, but it never got much better than that!

We used to have shows like Carol Burnett, and now we have "Fear Factor". Blech.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get TiVo. its the only way to go. I barely ever watch Live TV anymore or rent movies. Plus the new LOGO channel is realy decent.

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