Friday, April 27, 2007

I'm sick of all the new gameshows

It seems like the hip thing to complain about is how “our” children are overstimulated because commercials and MTV and children’s programming is constantly sending faster and snappier imagery at them. This certainly may be true in many cases. But then how does one explain what’s going on in the world of gameshows? When I was a kid, we watched fast-paced gameshows like Tic-Tac-Dough, Press Your Luck, and the $25,000 Pyramid. But nowadays, everything has slowed down. Yes, Jeopardy is still on, and Alex Trebek is still proud to have all the answers -er- questions – whatever. It is a show that rewards knowledge and cleverness. But beyond that, the current spate of offerings are clearly designed for those without the capacity for intellectual thought.

I was shocked to flip on NBC to discover that Deal or No Deal was still on the air. My friends tell me that it continues to be a huge hit. Now I realize that those women holding briefcases are attractive. But the attention span required to watch such a program is longer than that of the average giant sloth. Note that this is roughly six times the length of the typical Howie Mandel fan. I’m astounded that anyone is tuning into see this. The only way I can see that this differs from Let’s Make a Deal with Monty Hall is that the people are not in fun costumes, and there is no boobie prize like a bunch of goats. Yet the show presses on with others following in its wake. We have 1 vs 100 w/ Bob Saget, Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader? with Jeff Foxworthy, and finally National Bingo Night with some guy from that extreme home makeover show. What happened to someone earning their money? There has been a very quick devolution from Who Wants to be a Millionaire, which was kind of perfect in that there were easy questions for kids and morons, but things also ramped up to a more challenging level. From there, The Weakest Link took over as the most popular game show. Speed and strategy were key, but knowing anything at all was really not rewarded. In fact, it only increased your odds of getting booted off the show. Being smart resulted in punishment. It was like 3rd grade all over again.

Which brings me to Mr. Foxworthy’s show. When I heard the premise – adults trying to match 10 year olds question for question, I was somewhat intrigued. I figured they had some genius kids that were Ken Jenningses just waiting to happen. Alas, on a good day, this show only covers ten questions, all of which are pretty much common sense or at least common knowledge. The “charm” of the program is that the kids are really cheeky and Foxworthy insults the contestants. Which, it turns out, is the real point of all these shows: Humiliation.

See, when Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, and their ilk had finally gone through every last way you could subject people to public embarrassment, the networks realized that they had to shift gears. We’d seen enough preteen prostitutes and incestuous brawlers to last a lifetime. But the public’s lust for the shaming of their fellow man is a beast not easily satiated. When Chase Sampson missed the first question on Millionaire, it was bigger news than when someone actually won the top prize. Poor Chase arrived a college student dressed in a suit and tie only to leave feeling like the idiot of the year. Immediately after that, we were given a show where an androgynous Brit shrieks at contestants, “You are the weakest link!” So now when a guy goes on Deal or No Deal and blows an offer of 40,000 bucks because he has no capacity for math – in front of his friends and family no less (who, incidentally also have no capacity for math), we’re supposed to be entertained.

However, we’re really just laughing at ourselves. I started by complaining about the ridiculously slow pace of these shows. Someone has been good enough to prove my point for me. They boiled down an hour episode to two minutes and 46 seconds of action. Check it out.

So we are left with people who have come on a TV show to win money, only to find themselves ridiculed. While the people watching at home are proving their own lack of intellect by sitting still for a full hour, waiting to solely see how the contestant blows it. That must be why they're watching because it's clear that there is little other action. It' s a sorry state of affairs. Wink Martindale, where have you gone?


Dyilyan Oh said...

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PMaz said...

Very good post because you are SO right. I can't watch most of the shows because there is so much filler, lights flashing, and very little question answering. Some of the new ones I have not watched, like Foxworthy's or Saget, but I might give them a try.

The other day I turned on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" in the morning. What happened? Do they not pick people based on knowledge anymore? Meredith called a number from the audience. The person had used all her lifelines by the $1,000 question. No joke. It was ridiculous. The next person did not fair well either. I remember trying to get on this show back in the early part of the decade and could never get through on the phone.

I did like that spelling bee show with all the celebrities. Not too bad, but it was only on once that I know of.