That’s Not Entertainment

July 9th, 2009–


This is the part where I gripe about things in pop culture (especially tv) that I hate. 


Sure, I should just turn the tv off. And you better bet I would, in a hot second, except that I live with a guy who won’t turn it off. If I lived alone you wouldn’t see any of these things playing in my house. Ah, someday….


1. Screaming as entertainment. Whether the screaming is supposed to be comedy or induce terror or to show how bad the kids are on Supernanny, screaming always sucks. Screaming isn’t funny. Screaming by itself isn’t that scary. Watching some judge show where the judge is screaming at the litigants, or the litigants are screaming at each other, is horrible. 

We’ll be watching some godawful judge show in the tube (and I swear my old man watches all of them) and it’s just a parade of idiots, screaming at each other. Why not just move to an apartment complex where crazy people scream at each other every day? Would you find that entertaining? No, me neither. 


2. Embarrassment as comedy. I guess some people find this entertaining. I don’t. Those Sacha Baron Cohen movies look like nothing but “embarrassment comedy”…which is why I’ve never bothered to go see them.


3. Any show that uses lots of wet sucking sound effects where people’s guts or eyes are getting pulled out, or someone’s messing with a corpse, or whatever. Of course that wet sucking sound effect is realistic. That’s why I hate it.


4. Any show that pretends to be about helping people but is actually a glorified freak show (*cough*drphil*cough*).


5. Any show that spends a lot of time whipping up hysterical emotional responses to any given issue. This can be as reprehensible as the 700 club whipping up hatred for homosexuals or as seemingly innocent as Oprah condemning puppy mills. (BTW, I’m not against homosexuals or for puppy mills.) Either way, I resent it when someone appeals to the emotions of the ignorant masses, even if it’s for a good cause. It teaches people to react instead of think.


6. Reality shows that have people running an obstacle course where they fall in water if they miss, a la Wipeout or I Survived a Japanese Gameshow. These shows are so bad, my old man won’t even watch them, and that’s really saying something. We all know that the only reason those “big balls” are on Wipeout is so the gay guys hosting the thing can say “big balls” dozens of times per show, and that’s only funny for a couple of minutes.


7. Cooking shows where overbearing sadistic chefs cuss out contestants who are given insufficient time to do their jobs. (You know who I’m talking about, but I hate watching him on tv so much that I’m not even putting his name on here.) Those shows are not only not fun to watch, but they put out an unrealistic idea of how a kitchen is actually run; I’ve worked in enough restaurants to know that a good kitchen is one where no one has to scream to get things done. (If this happens in your restaurant, you need to fire either the screamer or the screamee.) 

One unintended effect of these shows may be to make it more difficult to get people to work as cooks, since they may conclude that kitchen work is all about screaming and verbal abuse.


8. We don’t have cable, so I can’t really comment much on those channels, but a couple of times my daughter got me to watch some of the crap they’re playing on MTV these days. I remember some pitifully boring show with a bunch of guys playing pranks on each other. Yawwwwn. MTV used to be my favorite channel when I had cable…what happened?!


9.  Anything overly advertised. Notice that any really good show that people look forward to watching (like Lost) gets the least advertising time until it gets closer to the actual airing date. Conversely, any show that gets advertised to death long before it airs is probably going to suck a lot. I already hate the show Glee.


10. Game shows that are obviously rigged. Can’t remember the name of that terrible one with the lie detector. That was the worst. You could tell that even if you got really far in the game, they’d throw you a question that would make you nervous enough to fail the lie detector. Of course the whole thing was based on the premise that lie detectors actually work anyway. (You didn’t think they did, did you?)

And then there’s the game shows that are too easy to win. “Are you smarter than a fifth grader” should have been changed to “Are you smarter than preschooler” when the celebrity guests started winning money for their charities. The questions were so easy, you could see the contestants trying to act like they were puzzling out the answer, when we all knew good and well they were just killing time. The game show may as well have just handed them the money at the start of the show.

Then, of course, there’s the game shows based almost purely on chance. Will this number light up? How about this one? 

I’m sure y’all have already noticed that the lamer the game show, the more time they spend playing tense music while the host waits for a really long time to give the answer, or the contestant takes a really long time to answer a question. 


11. Judge shows. Dear god, take these horrible shows away from us!! My old man watches every damn one and they all suck, just in different ways. I used to think Judge Judy was the worst, until I saw the others. Now I consider her the least offensive. Judy screams at the litigants, (“Loser! Bum!”), that blonde chick is condescending, one of them uses the phrase “at the end of the day” over and over again, one of those other judges hollers at a frequency that makes my ears hurt, and some other guy lets his litigants talk about all kinds of embarrassing sexual details that have nothing to do with the case, just to make the show juicier. To heck with them. Out of my courtroom! All of you!


12. American Idol. Ok, well, to tell the truth, American Idol isn’t so bad, but if I don’t gripe about it here, I don’t know where I’ll do it at, so here goes. Listening to the singing on American Idol is ok, but that’s not what the show is about, just like those cooking reality shows have nothing to do with cooking. American Idol is a reality show, not a singing show. There’s plenty of people who sound great during the first auditions who never even make it to the first round in Hollywood. Sometimes someone sounds terrible and Simon Cowell will just about fall down and wet his pants in appreciation, and some people sound great and the judges act like they suck. 

I don’t expect American Idol to get changed; it is the way it is and if it was changed, it’d be boring. But it sends a message that if you’re not instantly perfect when you sing, and if you’re not flawlessly perfect every time you sing, then you’re just another pathetic loser who doesn’t deserve to try at all. That’s just really too bad. If people are afraid to make mistakes when they sing, (or, indeed, when they do anything), then they will never learn how to do it right–and, conversely, the person who is so talented that they sing perfectly the first time may freak out and give up when they finally do start to make mistakes. (But, that’s reality tv for you, and if someone tried to make it all inclusive and stuff, I suppose it’d just suck in a totally different way…)


13. Anything dealing with supernatural crap, or Nostradamus, or ghosts, or any of that. It just reinforces stupid people in their mistaken beliefs.

Religious crap disguised as news (“today is the day Jesus rose from the dead”) shouldn’t even be legal in my opinion. 


So there you have it, today’s pop culture gripe. I’ll probably have more later.



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