That’s Just Disgusting

Much of my “relaxation” time over break was spent zoned out in front of the television, courtesy of Comcast digital cable. I am completely updated on “One Life to Live”, “American Idol” , and most importantly, thanks to E!’s riveting reenactment, the Michael Jackson Trial. I smell Emmys. In the spare moments I had between quality programming, I would stop to ponder what exactly these television shows would say about me if they were the basis for psychological profiling. To then make myself feel better, and arguably smarter, I would skim the New Yorker or Time Magazine. I read the movie reviews in the first, and the article on television in America in the latter. Apparently, our entertainment industry has gone so far as to use the word “damn” and discuss drugs on primetime television. The article had some entertaining pictures, but I felt dissatisfied after reading it. The truth about television is that in addition to often being raunchy and morally debase, it’s just plain bad. I admit I don’t go in search of PBS explorations of wildlife in the Sahara, and I had something of a laugh attack when I saw the commercial for the History Channel’s great explorers special. But I accept that the shows I tune into package sex and vulgarity and throw it right at me. The FCC and their “concerned audiences” seem to live by basic rules: if it’s during a football game, it’s a no fly, if it is on Fox most other nights of the week, the v-chip will go to work. Parents who are still concerned about their children accidentally flipping from Sponge Bob to a hot tub scene on a reality show should first consider the actual quality of a show devoted to a pineapple dwelling sea creature. Sponge Bob’s shrill little voice is funny (in small doses), steamy five minute romances and “life altering” plastic surgery are obviously vapid, and it is hard to take oneself too seriously watching any of these, but they are someone else’s woes, and the principles of schadenfreude kick in. Shows practically make fun of themselves in their advertising- the voiceover guy does his spiel accentuating the catch in the 555th season of the Bachelor with a tone that hints at impending doom. It is all far too “compelling” to resist. Regardless of the targeted age group, television feeds off the principles of entertaining. Essentially, viewers are only getting what they want. Blaming networks for overstepping boundaries during broadcasts that will undoubtedly attract a wider audience is one thing. It would seem however, that the issue runs far deeper than flashes of nudity. The disgruntled bunch is, however unfortunately, facing an uphill battle. While they may have righteousness on their side, CBS and Fox have corporate sponsors, and a large pool of viewers who will only be more intrigued by the scandal surrounding a healthily publicized suit. Nothing and no one will keep them from their OC. The fact that shows exist and thrive merely on the premise of voting people off an island, rose ceremonies, or botox gone awry is the strongest statement about the so-called “downward spiral” of television and society in general. A show that has made an annoying British man famous for being a jerk is in its fourth season, which is far more concerning then a detective swearing on a cop show. If you have never been seduced by good-looking people, catfights, or contests where people think they are winning a lot of money, I applaud your obvious enlightenment. To the rest of America, we must live with the knowledge that it is not any intervention by the censors or conservative watchdogs that will make the difference in what Time has labeled the “red hot indecency war.” Any power or interest to change tracks is vested entirely upon where viewing audiences draw the line. One can only hope that E! will not sink any lower.