Monday, January 30, 2012
Dumb and Dumber, Watching TV
I am pretty sure that, in their heyday, the Three Stooges, were looked down upon as low comedy by some folks. To this day, I still do. The truth is, however, even chimpanzees yuck it up when one of their fellow primates falls out of the tree. Since we share a great deal of our DNA in common with them it should come as no surprise that many people tune into “America’s Funniest Home Videos” to watch other people sustain a variety of injuries and humiliations.
In these horrid times, we all need a bit of entertainment and a few laughs, but it is hard for me to scan the evening’s television schedule without concluding that what passes for popular culture these days suggests that our collective IQs are scraping the bottom percentiles.
I will skip the usual stuff on the networks. Cops, lawyers, physicians are the stuff of most TV dramas from its earliest days. Many of these shows are well written, acted, and produced. The situation comedies, however, are the lowest, most vulgar stuff imaginable. The animated versions, “The Simpsons”, “Family Guy” or “American Dad” are generally cringe-worthy and, if you think about it, a wholesale attack on everything society generally regards as virtues. If you tear them down, what is left?
A show like “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” gets a bunch of fairly smart kids together and some really dumb adults to demonstrate how much they have forgotten or never learned when they were in fifth grade. There is a serious aspect to the question it asks.
I once wrote that if you wanted to lower your IQ, you should just watch the so-called History Channel, but to that I would have to add Animal Planet with shows like “American Stuffers” featuring a taxidermist and folks who had Fido and Fifi stuffed so they can be around in perpetuity. One can only hope they don’t feel the same way about the rest of their family.
This is the same channel that insists on broadcasting shows whose theme is that aliens from outer space are responsible for teaching the ancient Egyptians or Incas how to build pyramids. Let me repeat that, aliens from outer space! On a similar note, if the National Geographic channel keeps telling us that global warming is real, it should be dragged into court and heavily fined for every time it repeats this hoax.
Moving along, Animal Planet offers “Gator Boys” and the incomparable “Finding Bigfoot.” Why anyone would waste a minute’s time looking for Bigfoot defies the imagination, but watching them do so is comparable to announcing that you have reached a level of stupidity that embarrasses everyone who knows you.
Some shows are a category unto themselves like “Jersey Shore” in which a colony of morons is created solely for the purpose of providing viewers the satisfaction of saying they are not as stupid as the people they’re watching. There are gradations of this formula such as “The Real Housewives of” wherever, “The Bachelor”, etc.
I keep wondering when people who watch these shows will realize that “reality TV” has the same relationship to reality as junk mail does to a notice of eviction.
Over at TLC you can watch “Extreme Couponing” and shows about demented people who hoard everything until they are dragged from their homes for fear the stuff will fall and kill them. It’s mental illness as entertainment.
The ultimate channel for unremitting stupidity is TrueTV. They run “The Dumbest” series as a constant reminder that people who look and sound remarkably like your friends or relatives are morons. It’s truly a global thing as the clips come from all over. If you want to lose all hope for the future of the human race, watch this series.
I have come to suspect that far too much of what passes for “entertainment” on television is produced and aired by people who are convinced that if they provided anything intelligent, they would be off the air in days, if not hours. This stuff is an insult to the intelligence of most people, many of whom are smart enough to be doing something else to pass the time.
There was a book titled “They Became What They Beheld” and I am concerned that television is turning too many people—young and old—into complete, mouth-breathing trolls. It says a lot about our short attention spans and national mood swings during this election year.
© Alan Caruba, 2012