If one needed any further proof that broadcast and cable television programming is slipping ever deeper into a murky mass of soft-core porn, circus side show acts and sophomoric humor, I submit for your consideration the following:
– The Discovery Channel’s ‘Naked and Afraid.’ This so-called reality show air drops one male and one female survival expert into such hellish environs as a tropical rain forest, an African desert and a deserted South Sea Island. They’re then asked to strip naked, and survive on what they can forage and kill over the next 21-days. Trust me, the survival part is really just an excuse to focus on these modern-day Adam and Eve wanna-be’s as they frolic, cavort and cuddle to their hearts’ content. It’s truly disturbing and, in my opinion, should carry the tagline: ‘Where survival meets soft-core.’ Yuck.
– TLC’s ‘The Man With the 132-Pound Scrotum.’ And, you thought you were having a bad day! Ouch! Somehow, some way, those oh-so-erudite purveyors of fine taste at TLC managed to track down a guy named Wesley Warren, Jr. Poor Wes suffers from scrotal lymphedema, a disease that has caused his family jewels to swell to superhuman size. Talk about runaway inflation!
But, wait, there’s more to this tear jerker (now stop it. I won’t go there). It seems that El hombre con los cajones grandissimos is also destitute, so he has no funds with which to pay for a downsizing. Such drama. Such pathos. Such drivel.
And where I ask, were the erectile dysfunction and aging male bladder pharmaceutical manufacturers when this show was being made? Nowhere to be seen. Were I a PR guy or media planner for Cialis or Flow-Max, I’d have showered the dude with money AND flooded the program with my commercials. Talk about a missed opportunity.
What makes all of this tawdry programming SO sad is the rich legacy of each cable channel.
I had the unique opportunity to work on The Discovery Channel account AND launch what was originally known as The Learning Channel. Nowadays, one discovers soft-core on the former and oversized testicles on the latter. And, that’s on a good night.
In 1961, F.C.C. Chairman Newton K. Minnow famously described television as a vast wasteland. Were he alive today, and able to suffer through such salacious shows as the ones above, he’d most certainly add the adjective sleazy.
I don’t know about you, but I’m naked, afraid and swollen at the prospect of how much worse TV programming can become.
Sadly, I think the worst is yet to come:
How about parachuting the guy with the 132-lb testicles into the Serengetti Plain, and watch him dodge lions AND raise money for his operation over a three-week period? Now that’s what I call must-watch TV!
No argument here that there aren’t plenty of U.S. TV classics, and I’d certainly agree that the psychological and moral complexity of an All in the Family matches and surpasses much of the quality TV today…But the problem with quality and all matters of taste is that it’s in the eye of the beholder, so this is a difficult enterprise for Salazar Enterprises to undertake in any objective way…and especially in a way that doesn’t pass judgment on varying definitions of quality in ways that I think American pop culture has always benefitted from staying away from…
Fair enough, Sam. I think we’d need Dan Salazar, Peppercomm’s resident data scientist, to do some serious numbers crunching, develop a quality quotient and then compare, and contrast, the two TV programming eras in question. My gut still tells me The Mary Tyler Moore Show would help elevate any list that includes Inkmasters.
I think Peter and Julie are covering some of the same territory here, Steve. You’re not wrong that there’s probably more that offends you on TV today than ever before…but that’s because there is so much more on TV today. I am curating just the series that I want to see, and I have more stuff than my DVR can hold. Ray Donovan. The Americans. Justified. The Newsroom. Louie. Boardwalk Empire. Homeland. The Bridge. Sons of Anarchy. The Walking Dead. Breaking Bad. The Killing. Low Winter Sun. House of Cards. Game of Thrones. Veep. Girls. Family Tree. Orange Is the New Black. Hell on Wheels. Modern Family. Dexter. The Daily Show. The Colbert Report. True Blood. American Horror Story. Mad Men. (And a ton of World Wrestling Entertainment, but you might challenge that one…) Some of these are better than others, but all are series currently still on the air that I keep up with. In an era of three networks, you certainly wouldn’t have found any year stacked with that type of programming…in my mind. But that’s also because there are so many more choices on the air now. So you could make the same argument for program that I loathe (i.e. Wife Swap).
I agree with both RepMan AND Peter. Because there are 1000 channels now vs. the Big 3 in the past, there are more choices…and therefore, more dreck. However, if you take away the entire (so-called) Reality Programming genre, really, we ARE in a golden age of TV… with the exception of AMC’s “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad,” viewers need to pay a premium for most of the quality programming nowadays, which airs on HBO. The best documentaries I’ve ever seen have been on HBO On Demand.
Now, hold on there a second, professor. The Battle of the Network Stars was a beautiful thing. Hosted by the iconclastic, bombastic and ever so occasionally fantastic, Howard Cosell, Battle had everything a TV fan of the late ’70s could hope for: Kathy Lee Crosby in short-shorts, Erin Moran in a tank top and Scott “He has the cut of an athlete” Baio, all representing the ABC team. Talk about a Dream Team. Wow! Now, that was a golden age.
We’re living in the golden age, Peter? Really? With the likes of Kim Kardashian, Mob Wives and Snookie, I’d liken it to the Bronze Age, with more than one Cro-magnon Man running around on the boob tube.
It’s just more choices, and more ways not to watch at all. It’s not like the old days of 3 channels when for every “All in the Family” or “Hill Street Blues” there were 20 variations on “Battle of the Network Stars” or “Hello Larry.”
Thanks, Sam. I realize that you’ve made a career of studying television, so you’re far more conversant on the subject. But, I’d disgaree there’s more quality programming than ever. For every Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Homeland, there are countless, mind-numbing variations on the CSI and survivor themes. And the sitcoms all specialize in sophmoric bathroom humor. I’ll take re-runs of The Twilight Zone, All in the Family and the Smothers Brothers over the current offerings any day of the week.
I’d argue that there’s more great television than ever on today as well…which is all probably because there’s just so much more television than before. I don’t know that the proportion of crap is higher than ever, although we might argue that there were fewer things that were “cream of the crop” and also fewer things that were “bottom of the barrel” in a previous generation. But perhaps that makes sense, when the choice proliferates…that you’re going to get both a lot more good stuff than before and also a lot more crap. This is of course especially the case with platforms like YouTube, where anybody can upload anything (within particular taste parameters…) But of course speaking of taste…crap is always up to the eye of the beholder, and if it gets an audience, it will probably get shared or find air somewhere or another. Now, whether The Learning Channel and Discovery are the right homes for said content…well, that seems to me to be a potential conflict in brand meaning.
Ha. As you know, Donna. you’re not missing anything at all (aside from a 132-lb scrotum and a couple of survival nuts frolicking in the nude on a deserted island).
Thanks for the nice note, Patricia. I think we all possess that quality. I occasionally wondered what it would have been like to have tagged along with The Situation, Paulie and Ronnie for a morning of GTL followed by a night of bar-hopping with Snookie, JWow and Sammie. Maybe in my next life….
Love the article, can’t comment. I don’t watch any television. This is why.
I’m with Donna. I canceled cable before the baby was born and invested the $1500 saved thus far.
I do think your case is a might overstated.There’s no question that formerly high-minded basic cable outlets like A&E, Bravo, TLC and Discovery have gone the sleazoid route in search of $$$. But I’ve seen some really good stuff online like “Mad Men,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Downton Abbey” and the new shows on Netflix. All make me think this actually is a “Golden Age.”
Thank you, thank you and thank you…well put…but still I have to admit there is that wasteful side of myself that would love to be (just for a day) a botox beauty that sits around the house complaining about her life or better yet, the female version of Guy Fieri who can inhale a 2 lb. hot as fire chicken wing.