Wednesday, May 27, 2009

2 + 8 = 5

By Carl

Only in America is
being a baby factory profitable:

Jon and Kate Gosselin's marital misery sent their TV show soaring off the charts Monday night.

But before they start enjoying themselves too much, they might also want to consider this: If their marriage slides under the bus, it will very likely take their TV show with it and they will have to find another job.

Besides raising eight kids.

Yeah. The cynic in me says ol' John here (I have never watched the show, but I feel stupid calling him by his last name) banged his little hottie with dollar signs lighting up his eyes.

In fact, it wouldn't surprise me to find out that the Discovery network actively sought out a woman who could, um, be a co-respondent in the divorce.

In the old days, this used to be called "procurement". Now it's called "marketing".

Ratings for this first episode were more than double the final episode of last season.

So the Gosselins took a page out of the
Loud family scrapbook.

Undoubtedly, they bit off more than they could chew. I'm sure the novelty of raising sextuplets (are you listening, Octomom?) and two other children wore off quickly, but the bucks rolled in, even as the audience wore thinner.

But this entire episode speaks to American culture: how bland are our lives that we would rather spend an hour watching a young family changing diapers than deal with our spouses and children?

Changing. Diapers.

Or climbing a tree on some remote island just so you don't have to face the challenges of being "voted off"? Or racing through the streets of Rome looking for a clue to the next destination? Or...

It's amazingly sick and twisted, to my mind at any rate, that the best that TV networks across the spectrum can present to us is someone else's life.

They protest that it's compelling drama, that these are real people, and that they are cheap and easy shows to make.

Until you realize they are as scripted as soap operas or even bad talk shows like Jerry Springer. And then the illusion, the same illusion that drives pro wrestling and game shows, vaporizes. Reality sets in, and you realize that you've been hoodwinked into watching one long commercial.

There was one reality show that I not only liked, but watched obsessively:
Mad Mad House. (episodes here)

Here was not only a parody of reality TV done right, it was an actual reality show. Yes, it was scripted, to be sure, but here's the thing: there were no heroics, no safety nets. Real people, a cross-section of "average Americans" were forced not to deal with their shortcomings in terms of being overweight or out of shape or less than perfect.

No, they were exposed to an entire new spectrum of lifestyles: naturism, voodoo, witchcraft, primitivism, and even vampirism.

It was "Fear Factor" but without the ick factor. And there was no audience selection, or "democratic" booting out. Your hosts were your prosecutors, judges, and jury, as well as often your defense attorneys.

None of this "
AT&T helped select the winner." There were few if any product placements. It was about finding the person with the most open mind...who could also be tough enough to survive all the backstabbing antics behind them.

And frankly, it was compelling. I like watching uncomfortable people deal with a situation that, while not threatening or harmful, forces them out of their cozy little superiority complices and into dealing with other people as equals.

America needs to learn that lesson over and over again.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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