The Idiot Box


There’s a reason why TV is called the [[wp>Idiot_Box|Idiot Box]] — its not because its like a “dumb terminal”, its because these days a lot of what comes on TV is either dumb, or is making us dumb, or we are already so dumb that we can’t help but watch it.

I haven’t really watched much TV in the last 10 years or so. There are occassional bursts when I’m at home, or an extended stay at a friend’s place or a hotel and so on. On a day to day basis, my only TV experience usually happens in the gym. I’m always more intrigued by what people choose to watch than what is actually on TV.

This one time, I saw what was being called the [[http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/show_cc/text/0,2495,FOOD_20077_40801,00.html|Food Challenge]] on … you guessed it, the [[http://www.foodnetwork.com/|Food Network]]. This particular episode focused on Italian chefs. The contest involves things like “Highest pizza dough throw”, “Highest number of shoulder to shoulder pizza dough rolls”, “Largest pizza base” and “eXtreme Pizza”. Infact, IIRC it was actually affliated with the [[http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/|Guinnes Book of World Records]]. Bear in mind that I have full respect for what these Chefs do and their profession. I’m just saying that the intellectual content of that program was abysmal. I was not funny, it was thrilling, it was not educational, it was not insightful. And yet, I could see that people were actually paying money to be at these events, and clearly some people didn’t mind watching it on TV either. Why? What does this kind of content have to offer?

Then just yesterday I chanced upon an episode of this new(?) game show called [[http://www.nbc.com/Deal_or_No_Deal/|Deal or No Deal]] — its essentially like gambling showed on TV. Its purely a game of chance, there’s absolute **NO SKILL** required whatsoever (unlike some other game shows). And yet, I saw people actually getting excited as each contestant advanced. The makes of the show have put in all the glamorous elements in the show. There are lots of beautiful women, there are mysterious callers, there’s lots of screaming and yelling, and they build up a lot of these crucial moments where the silence of audience is punctuated by the orchestrated background score. And you know these high tension moments involve? //The opening of a suitcase// — the contestant makes the choice of which suitcase to be opened, and it is then opened. Thats it. One would imagine this should be a fairly simple affair. But no sir, it is accompanied by audience cheering; the contestant is portrayed as if he/she has some inherent qualities that led him/her to make this wonderful decision; the girl who opens the suitcase acts as if she is somehow responsible for the contents of the case. And so on and so on, you get the point.

I couldn’t help but conclude that if these are the kinds of things that are selling and people are watching, then the TV is definitely not the Idiot. We are.

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