JIM CREES: What’s on TV

‘Reality’ TV capitalizing on humiliating things people are doing for fame, money

“I wish there was a knob on the TV so you could turn up the intelligence. They got one marked “brightness” but it don’t work, does it?” - Leo Anthony Gallagher
It’s getting so I can hardly stand to turn on the TV anymore. Now, please don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe I’m a TV snob, but I suppose some might think me so. Still, I’m not the kind of guy who will sit there and tell you I don’t watch TV. I do. I watch TV, but I like to think I’m at least a wee bit discerning in how I spend my time in front of the tube. I come by any TV snobbery I do have honestly. Back in the day, my mom was one of the original TV elitists. We had barely gotten the first TV in the Crees household when she decided that much of what was being beamed into our home via this ‘new’ technology was basically garbage. (And this was ‘way back when’ - when almost nothing was garbage on TV!) Even in the late 50s and early 60s my mom was concerned about the amount of “violence” on television. She didn’t like Bugs Bunny because Elmer Fudd was always trying to kill him! (I’m not kidding.) My mom let us watch Huckleberry Hound, but was not a big fan of Foghorn Leghorn, who was always plotting to have the little chicken hawk smack the dog silly. She NEVER let us watch the Three Stooges, and my mom would not allow us to watch “Combat,” (with Vic Morrow.) “Combat” was on bowling night though, so we would sneak to my aunt’s place while my folks weren’t home. She would feed us Triskets and melted cheese while we watched the forbidden fare. Fast forward to today. I don’t have too much to watch on TV. Truth be known, my Dearly Beloved and I don’t have the same TV watching tastes. She is an absolute news fiend. She watches news programs, news commentary shows, news reviews, a review of the news reviews, and all the political interview programs. I, on the other hand, watch a very, very limited number of programs. I like home improvement shows such as “This Old House.” I like “The New Yankee Workshop” and other craft-ish type programs. I enjoy a lot of offerings on Home and Garden Network. I like watching “Antiques Roadshow” and “American Pickers,” and I do often watch Jay Leno’s opening monologue. Beyond that, I usually abandon the living room and find some place to read, or head to the shop to slap together a toy for my grandson. I just don’t find most of what’s on the tube entertaining. And then there is Reality TV. I most often find what I’m missing on TV when folks talk about this show or the other. I then tend to give it a try, to see what people are talking about. I have learned that Reality TV is not only a poor reflection of ‘reality’ in these United States, the programs are also an extremely poor advertisement for this country around the globe. I have seen two or three clips of scenes from Honey Boo Boo - which were way, Way, WAY too many clips to see at all. This type of program seems to be the trend. Reality TV shows seem to focus on some desperately unfortunate, (or stupid), family or group of people and then spend weeks and months showing off lives that under most any circumstance are banal and meaningless, but which suddenly thrust the most ridiculous people into some state of celebrity status. There is no lack of examples. “The Kardashians.” “The Bachelor.” “The Bachlorette.” “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” “Toddlers & Tiaras,” “Amish Mafia,” “Jersey Shore,” “America’s Next Top Model,” “The Biggest Loser,” “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” “Dance Moms.” All are programs which basically capitalize on the incredibly embarrassing things people are willing to do to ‘earn’ their 15 minutes of fame, (and no few bucks in the offing.) There now is a program called Double Divas, which records the trials and tribulations of a couple of lingerie store owners catering to women who are enormously endowed. A few minutes of watching this stunning example of American small screen art at least partially explained ...well, nothing. The entire genre seems to thrive on the idea of humiliation as entertainment. Can Honey Boo Boo or the Amish Mafia really be entertaining? I guess so, and I certainly am not the guy to ‘pooh-pooh’ other people’s favorite TV program. I do, however, still find it mildly distressing that this inexpensive way of turning out a TV programs seems to be more and more the norm. Find some fool willing to put his or her life out there for the perusal of the nation, and let them humiliate themselves for a season or two before the next fool comes along. Fine. I guess that’s entertainment. I just find it a bit ...sad.