Monday, January 30, 2012

Dumb and Dumber, Watching TV

By Alan Caruba

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


LarryOldtimer said...

Unfortunately, Alan, the creature called "Bigfoot" or Sasquach actually exists . . . in the wild and untamed part of America. There have been a huge number of eye-witnesses, rural people who have nothing to gain and are very familiar with the surrounding ordinary wildlife.

These creatures have never been known to cause any harm to humans, so they should best be left alone.

There are huge wilderness areas of America/Canada which have never been explored, and no one can tell what species might exist in those areas.

I personally am a professional civil engineer, and a "scientific method" person. A good many events of history can not be explained by the present scientific paradigm. I have personally experienced such events on occasion.

As far as TV shows go, there are some excellent ones, but sitcoms will always apply to silliness. Crude humor is always the funniest, and laughter is excellent medicine.

It is far more the computer which makes people extremely stupid.

Alex G said...

@Larry: Show me a dead one's corpse and I will believe they exist. Also, what, may I ask, is the purpose of placing quotation marks around "scientific method"?

Ronbo said...

Has the world grown MORE stupid?

Are we in the Age of Idiocracy?

If the past is any teacher, our modern age is not more idiotic than previous eras.

Napoleon (1812): "Hey gang! I have a great idea! Let's invade Russia with an army of Euro trash teenagers and march all the way to Moscow without overcoats!"

Custer (1876) "Okay guys! I have a great idea! Let's divide our cavalry regiment of 600 men into three columns and attack 10,000 Indians armed with superior rifles at the Little Big Horn!"

Tojo (1941) "Okay team! I have a great idea! Let's attack the American Navy at Pearl Harbor on a Sunday morning in a daring surprise attack with carrier aircraft! We sink their fleet and own the Pacific!"

The average IQ is 100 - This means that half the human race are STUPID!!!

Unfortunately, being stupid doesn't the stooges in their place as low comedy.

Rich Kozlovich said...

So you think that these shows are stupid and classless? Well, I think I have a way of fixing it so that you won’t be so offended by the shows mentioned.

Try watching Mob Wives for five minutes.

Trust me when I say that everything else in television will take on a patina of class. If you can’t stand five minutes…that’s ok….everything else will still seem classy by comparison.

Unknown said...

This interview with author Ray Bradbury touches on idiocy and cultural decay.

He writes in " Fahrenheit 451 " about political correctness run a muk. Were society should handicap greatness because upon being great you offend those who can not become so.