Deal With It

 Do you remember the classic TV show ‘Candid Camera’ with Alan Funt?  The premise was that hidden cameras would be placed in various locations and then a plausible but slightly outrageous event would be staged. It might be a talking mannequin. Or perhaps it would be vending machine that spit out your coins immediately after you put them in the coin slot. Another classic was a lady who got in a car with no motor. A tow truck pushed the motor-less car down a hill and coasted it into a local unsuspecting garage. When the mechanic came out to help this motorist, who was complaining the her car wouldn’t start after ‘driving ‘ it into the service station, they  discovered that the car had its motor missing. Of course the lady in the car feigned ignorance, and the reactions of the mechanic were televised for everyone to see. It was quite funny. No one got hurt, and everyone had a big laugh, and in the ‘50s and ‘60s, this was considered to be quite cutting edge stuff.

 Fast forward to today. While the ‘candid camera’ concept has been tried a gazillion times by a least as many TV shows, it has devolved to a new low. I am speaking to two shows. The first is ‘Impractical Jokers’, and the second is ‘Deal With It’, with Howie Mandel. Before I go off on my tangent, let me say that I am by no means humorless. I am joking and screwing around all the time, and I am never at a loss for a funny quip, anecdote, or observation. Most girls that I have dated over my life would say that they did so because I made them laugh. My poor wife (bless her heart) is a constant state of amusement at my antics. I tend to find the funny side of most things, and I generally wear a smile as part of my everyday dress. However, these shows have gone too far, and frankly, they are not at all funny, amusing, or intelligent. I am also at a loss to explain why anyone else would find these shows funny either…

 These shows practice what I like to call ‘ambush humor’. They do not take into account the amount of hurt that they cause, all in the name of fun(sic!).  The premise of these shows is that a person wears a hidden earpiece, and in a particular situation has to do whatever the person giving instructions (the handler as it were) into the earpiece tells him to do. The payoff is either money or prizes or both. My question is this…How does anybody think that by having a wife tell a husband that the baby that they are about to have is not his is somehow funny? Perhaps it is amusing that in a crowded restaurant, a boyfriend tells his girlfriend that she is getting fat and then proceeds to throw her food on the floor? Or here is one. The ‘handlers’ tell a guy, while on a date with his girlfriend, to shamelessly flirt with another woman right in front of her!  Is some cash or a new TV really worth hurting someone over? What is wrong with us that we find these staged scenarios that cause hurt and/or humiliation somehow amusing? Sorry everyone, but I find it is disgusting, and not funny in any way.

 I have a theory that will be unpopular with a few people, and that is OK. Dissenting opinions are one of the things that make our country great. I have no problem at all if someone wants to disagree with me. My theory is that we, as a society, have become desensitized to offensive things, and that we have become calloused and somehow meaner, and more cruel. Why? Because of the age of 24/7 media coverage. Because of our lowering of overall standards when it comes to morals and decency. Because just about everyone has a cell phone with a camera , and all of life’s little details can be recorded and shared for ‘amusement’. I am willing to bet that the girl who was secretly filmed losing her virginity didn’t find it amusing. In fact, she found it so humiliating that she committed suicide. Or, the poor male student at Rutgers who was secretly recorded having a tryst with another boy, and seeing it posted on You Tube? Guess what?? He jumped off a bridge to his death! Boy, that’s hilarious!!! Don’t you see the humor? Lighten up!!!

 But there is more. I also believe that there has been a lowering of the standards of decency, as far as what we as a society, will tolerate. Think back about 25-30 years ago to what was allowable for broadcast on TV. Now compare that to what is considered allowable today? In everything from profane language that seems to be spoken in every other sentence, to how much on-screen sex is portrayed, to the almost non-stop violence on some shows, I believe that we are degenerating into a society that will soon be tolerant of anything and everything, and that is not good. It seems that we as a whole have this  need  to be constantly stimulated and entertained 24/7/365, and the television and film producers, the writers, the creators, and video game manufacturers all share some of the responsibility for this. Also included in this rogues gallery is the current iteration of the music industry. I’m sorry, but such material as ‘Cop Killa’, and ‘F*** The Police’, and the many references to drugs, violence, the ‘gangsta’ lifestyle, the subjugation of woman et al, doesn’t exactly portray a kinder, gentler society. Everyone always wants ‘more, MORE, MORE!!!’, and there are plenty of people who will happily provide the people what the people want (all for a nice profit…). Then, they will simply shrug their shoulders and provide a mea culpa response when someone who was influenced by their ‘product’, does something unthinkable, and curl up behind the protections of The First Amendment Right of free speech. It is kind of like the question of if you do or no not have the right to yell ‘fire!’ in a crowded movie theater. I admit that we are on a slippery slope here, but where does it stop? Does it stop? Does society want it to stop? I am not against free speech. It is that right that has been one of the backbones of our nation. It even allows me to rant on in my blogs about any wild hair that I get at a particular moment! And you, as the reader / consumer have the right to agree, disagree, ignore or otherwise disregard anything I have to say. And that is OK. So, doesn’t this same argument apply to the TV shows that I find so offensive and unfunny? Of course it does! I can choose to watch or not watch, like or dislike or despise, rant on about or not, but that is not the point. My point goes much deeper than a TV show or two. It is about what has happened to us as a people, and what we allow as tolerable or not. It is a point to ponder, and it is an important one. It has been said that a society can be defined by how it treats the most vulnerable of its people, and what it finds entertaining. Think about that…

 But back to the supposed entertainment that ‘Impractical Jokers’ and ‘Deal With It’, and other such shows provide. These shows are not in and of themselves the problem. They are a symptom. When someone is sick, they can be treated symptomatically, or the causal root can be treated. I think that it is by now rather obvious what camp I fall in to as to how they should be treated…

Bottom line for me and how I feel about programming like this. I dislike it immensely. I find it offensive, and I see no value in it, except to entertain people that have a mean and sadistic streak in them, and it does nothing but push us a little closer to being a society that does not value dignity, but rather places an emphasis on 24/7 stimulation without a conscience or moral compass.

That’s my opinion. Deal with it.



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