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JWR 3.26 - The God that Failed


And there was a time when we prayed to you, listened to your sermons and gave tithes to your sponsors.  This was before you became the God that failed.


As a child I believed that you were infallible.  The crack in the foundation first appeared when Threeís a Crowd came on the air.  Being a young fan of Threeís Company, I though I must see this expansion of Jack Tripperís life with his new wife and business.  And I was wholly disappointed.  I could not understand why this show was no good.  When the Bringers of the Word (executives) took it off the air, I also had trouble understanding why it was now gone.  Why were Diffírent Strokes and Mork and Mindy gone?


With any holy word comes those who would misconstrue or misuse it.  We have many many networks now each trying to gain and increase their congregations.  Some have a clear vision like Animal Planet while others have a scattered and often conflicting messages.  Sadly some of the oldest are now crumbling, CBS intellectually wows us with 60 Minutes and then thereís The Amazing Race.


This segue nicely brings us to Reality TV, the Unitarianism of television.  My beef with reality TV is, first and foremost, the name is both inaccurate and patronizing.  These shows, Dog Eat Dog, Fear Factor, Survivor, Big Brother, American Idol, 30 Seconds to Fame (Tame, Lame), The Mole, The Bachelor, Joe Millionaire and the dozens of others are not reality.  All these shows have one thing in common: they are awarding a prize to the winner.  These are game shows.  If you recall, Who Wants to be a Millionaire was referred to as the reality show that started the phenomena.  But they are simply game shows.  A game show is a show where contestants compete against each other for a prize.


You may take the televised high ground and say that a show like The Bachelor is not a game show because the two people that end up together in the end love each other.  And, I have to be honest, as sentimental as I am, that type of cheese makes me grow a big, rubbery one.  Thereís a show coming out soon called...I donít know what itís called, but ďIslandĒ appears in the title.  The premise is we take a bunch of young and attractive people and stick them on an island.  The catch is: if you donít ďhook up,Ē youíre replaced by a viewer.


Now, I donít know about you, but I donít really need to watch TV to witness people hooking up for a night and then bitching about it for a month.  This is why we have friends.  As a matter of fact, I seem to have been watching this particular ďreality show,Ē sans the island, for about ten years now.


Allow me to digress here for a moment.  There was a show a couple years ago that I enjoyed watching despite my first impressions that it would suck.  The premise of Chains of Love was a man or woman was chained (handcuffed) to four members of the opposite sex.  Over two days the wo/man weeded out one member until s/he was left with just one person, the person they chose.  There was a little catch, more of an incentive, so to speak: $5,000 that the person choosing who to ditch could give as much or as little to each departing person as s/he wanted.  When I first watched the show, there was a woman making the decisions and I thought that I would really dislike watching the show if it was a guy who sent women away.


I was enjoying the show for itís sociological aspects.  Seriously, it didnít matter to me who won or lost, the interaction between the primary and secondary characters was more interesting that anything else.  When it was women competing, there was often a sense that they became friends with each other and usually the guy was respectful and not an Eric [redacted] about the situation.  Conversely, when men were chained to the woman, they competed relatively strongly, the quieter ones were sent packing first with the explanation alluding to the fact that he was too quiet; i.e.: the alpha male dominates.  Maybe we are watching Animal Planet.  Who doesnít admire assertiveness and tenacity?  Who doesnít give more than a passing glance to the introspective?


In the end, how many times can you watch the same tripe drip down your screen?  (Please refrain from making any comparisons to the Ramblings...or Amy will cut you.)


Letís pretend for a minute that there was no monetary prize involved in the dating game shows, and the only prize was the prize of true love.  It still makes it a game show, thereís nothing more American than buying and selling love.  You still doubt?  I refer you to The Dating Game and Love Connection.  Weíve been selling relationships for two or three generations on TV. now, itís nothing new.


I watched a show the other day called Last Comic Standing.  It is exactly the same as Big Brother and Survivor.  These shows are carbon copies and the funny thing is how popular they are.  Then, of course, in two or three years, theyíre going to start making dramas and comedies again and everyone will praise the creativity of the various networks and then each other network will take the same formula and change the setting or the characters slightly and put on their own version of it and then weíll start getting tired of it and then one network will put on a version of an English game show and everyone will think itís so refreshing and then all the other networks will do the same and then there will be mostly reality game shows and then eventually the networks will begin making dramas and sitcoms again and everyone will praise the creativity of the various networks and then each other network will take the same formula and...


Oh, sorry.


If you look back on TV shows that you used to love today, you get a sense of how your sensibilities have changed, or how our culture has changed.  A show thatís hip will look dorky in five years.  I guarantee that if you liked Fastlane, and only God would know why, if you can get a hold of an episode in 2008, you will think it sucked...big time.


Doesnít anybody read books anymore?  No, they really donít.  (Hell I read.  I read Playboy in the crapper.  Oh, sorry, the crappiere.)  And Iím not talking about the book by that chick whose husband died on the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania on September 11th.  And Iím not talking  about that book by Hillary Clinton.  Iím talking about Atlas Shrugged and Invisible Man and The Deed.


That last one was a joke.  If you read, youíd get it.


I like watching some of the shows on the History Channel and Discovery Channel and TLC, the documentaries on buildings and bridges and dams and the evolution of things like appliances and internal combustion engines and all that crazy shit we take for granted.  Did you know the all automobiles use the same kind of engine, piston driven?  Except for one, the Mazda RX-8 which uses a rotary engine, which is the only other kind of internal combustion engine invented, and it was invented back in the thirties.  Because thereís far fewer moving parts, it provides a much gentler ride and because of the oblong shape of the combustion chamber and the odd triangular shape of the thingy* that spins around inside it, it produces more power and more RPM than traditional piston driven engines.  Did you know thereís actually a difference between a motor and an engine?  Iím part full of all this meaningless crap.  And I can tell you are interested.


* Technical term.




Copyright © 2003 John Lemut