Robert Redford made a fairly entertaining movie entitled Quiz Show that, despite his popularity and generally popular reviews, was considered to be something of a flop. If I were to assign a reason for the film’s failure at the time, I probably would have chalked it up to a general lack of violence and nudity. Now 13 years later with the coarsening of our culture and the comeback of the game show, I have a new theory.
Perhaps, no one found the film credible, despite the fact that … it was based on a true story. Quiz Show details the story of Charles Van Doren, who was idolized in the 1950’s for showing off his intelligence by answering really hard questions on the game show Twenty-One. In fact, the producers of the show were so interested in providing America with an intellectual hero that they fixed the show by giving Van Doren the questions ahead of time.
People watching game shows with hard questions, intelligent contestants, and rooting for them to win? Preposterous!
The latest trend in game shows and frankly, television in general, is America loves to watch morons. Remember how people would talk about Jeopardy’s incredibly hard qualifying test? Well, I guarantee that if you can pass it, you will be turned down as a contestant on Deal or No Deal, Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader, or 1 vs. 100.
God knows that Alex Trebek has always seemed like a pompous prick on Jeopardy, as he calmly acts like he actually knew that the protagonist of Moliere’s Misanthrope was Alceste, but did you ever think that Jeff Foxworthy would be the host of a credible game show?
Remember when Joey was considered an imbecile on Friends for thinking the answer to _ount Rushmore on Wheel of Fortune, was Count Rushmore? Now television producers would be knocking each other over to give him a chance to win upwards of $1,000,000.
Now, I’m not some intellectual snob. I am in no ways Steve Allen. Back in the day, I thought the Jerry Springer show provided a valuable and entertaining service. Hey kids, do you want to do drugs, have lots of unprotected sex and have trouble reading a Dr, Seuss book? Well, this is what your life will turn out to be like!
Unfortunately, now 90% of all television is the Jerry Springer show, including a fairly large proportion of shows dealing in political commentary.
Almost all reality shows are merely game shows for morons, in a newfangled setting, but unlike everybody else, I’m not going to blame reality television. Look at the modern progenitor of the reality television show, MTV’s Real World. Its first season had a cast of fairly intelligent young people from different cultures trying to meld together and accept each other. Stunt casting though it was, the show’s third season which featured an HIV positive male was fairly revolutionary, but the clear trend for the future wasn’t Pedro, or his other fairly eloquent roommates, it was Puck, the slacker bike messenger who reveled in projecting his bodily fluids at other people. Since then, you’d be hard pressed to find a reality show “cast,” that didn’t include at least two or three people you’d be afraid to be in the same room with for over an hour and that includes the ones that feature nothing but celebrities. It’s gotten to the point where you have to applaud NBC’s Fear Factor for at least being honest about being a freak show.
VH1 has practically eschewed all real music content and effectively become the home of the insipidly stupid. America’s Most Smartest Model, Rock of Love, Hogan Knows Best, Flavor of Love, I Love New York. When will it end? Do people have that much of a need to feel superior to others that they will watch people who can barely spell their name 24 hours a day?
Want to know how people on television like Glen Beck, Dr. Phil, and Nancy Grace show off their intelligence? They interview and lecture morons! Have our standards dropped so low that the true test of intelligence is to tell a homeless, crack addicted pedophile that he isn’t living his life optimally.
But what really makes me crazy, is that I’m suddenly sounding like my grandfather. Do I watch Meet the Press? No. Do I watch Charlie Rose? Not, very often. Frankly, there are times where there is nothing more entertaining to me than a Beavis and Butthead marathon. I can sit and just watch those two laugh for hours, but suddenly I’m wondering whether anyone even remembers that it was a satire on the dumbing down of society. As it stands now, Beavis wins $400,000 minimum on Deal or No Deal, and Butthead is the next star of the Bachelor.
Turn off your television and do something intellectually edifying for a change – read a comic book!