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Reality shows - ugh!
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The Spectator
founded 2004 by ron cruger
A place for intelligent writers
A place for intelligent readers
 by Ron Cruger
rcruger@san.rr.com
2013 Spectator Ron - The Spectator All Rights Reserved
C
         It’s always dangerous to start with the premise, “It was better in the ‘good old days.” Most everything improves. We learn from the past and we learn from our mistakes. Cars used to require coddling and frequent tune-ups. Now, new cars go 100,000 miles without even changing spark plugs. Clothes, shoes, pens, clocks, lawn mowers, wrenches, athletes, eyeglasses, even television sets. Most things, do, indeed improve with the passing of time. Unfortunately, not everything.
          Take television programming for example. It’s an exception to the premise that things necessarily get better.
          In fact, television programming is going the other way.
          It was recently announced that NBC has discretely begun reimbursing advertisers an average of $500,000 each for failing to reach guaranteed rating levels.
          This is the first time that a big time network has done such a thing. If, indeed, a network doesn’t produce its audience it usually offers make-goods – free advertising spots until the deficit is overcome. NBC can’t do it this year as their inventory of advertising spots is filled with Christmas related advertising. So, all those shorted advertisers will have to accept cash rather than have their advertising reach its target market.
          CBS, ABC, and Fox are also paying out make-goods. NBC has the most dramatically damaged prime time ratings. None of their new shows for the season have hit it big.
          One entertainment executive recently stated, “NBC used to be the upscale, quality network. We have come to expect quality, iconic programming. Maybe they’re searching for the reality hit they don’t have. But, too much reality just doesn’t play well with the advertisers.”
          On the other hand, there are reality shows with high ratings, including Fox’s “American Idol,” CBS’ “Survivor” and “Amazing Race.” ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” draw sizeable audiences each week.
          Years ago, CBS used to be known as the “Tiffany Network” because of its high class, elegant and stylish programming. Today CBS is just another network, filling their time slots with shows that are “dumbed down” for all of us.
          It doesn’t take much intellectual capacity to sit and watch “Survivor,” “Amazing Race,” “Extreme Makeover,” “Dancing With the Stars” or “Extreme Cagefighting.”
          Perhaps the fast pace of life in the Western World causes millions to leave work, drive home and give up their brains to a panoply of mindless television shows. So many of the current crop of reality shows feature the inarticulate adventures of bunches of young men and women doing the foolish and absurd – swallowing maggots, ants or lizard eggs. Talk about “dumbing down” television. Can it get dumber?
          I don’t know about you, but I feel insulted when these reality shows come on the television screen. Watching 6 young people in the jungles of Borneo scampering in the mud and muck, vying with malice towards the others, for victory, does not appeal to me. 
          There was a time, dear reader, when television treated us viewers as though we were substantial and intelligent. Since the advent of serious competition from computer screens and the internet the degree of excellence in television programming has declined. We can only blame ourselves for accepting the drivel and blather on our screens. We are party to our own “dumbing down.”
          As far back as the 1950’s and 1960’s network television brought us stimulating and intellectual programs such as, Fireside Theater, Armstrong Circle Theater, Kraft Theater, Ford Theater, Pepsi Cola Playhouse, Robert Montgomery Presents, Star Stage, U.S. Steel Hour and Playhouse 90. We could watch first class stage plays, reenactments of famous novels, stories that made us think, uplifting and mindful classic shows.
          Of course it was a different time. It was a time when an advertiser could reach 80% of American households by advertising on the three networks. Now there are hundreds of channels available to us – from cooking to cartoons to golf. What’s an advertiser or a viewer to do?
          Good for golf, good for cartoons and cooking. All good, but where are the quality shows with the great actors of our time? Where are the classics that have stood the test of time? Where are the shows that teach our children the benefits of reading? Where are the shows that bring elegance and style into our homes – for our children to see.
           Personally I’ve had it up to here with “dumb down” shows that gain audience by the use of titillating and cheap dialogue. I’ve had it with shoddy, tawdry and inane plots that rely on innuendo to hold their audience.
          Perhaps the citizenry is just too tired and worn out when they come home from work. Maybe the populace needs mindless actors reciting mindless lines as they romp across our television screens. My fear is for a country that accepts “dumbed down” television. Are we also accepting “dumbed down” politics, “dumbed down” representatives and “dumbed down” goals for our country.
          Seems that citizens of a great country that accept being “dumbed down” might run the risk of having a government that “dumbs down” its precious freedoms, its very way of life.
          Maybe “dumbing down” doesn’t stop on our television screens.