Saturday, December 22, 2007

Prime Time Game and Reality Shows: The Dumbing Down of TV

My mother had to spend the night at my house the other day. My prime time television watching doesn’t include game shows or reality shows. Once or twice, I tried watching them out of desperation, but realize usually after a few minutes that I actually have more of a brain than they realize.

Anyway, my mother WILL watch these kinds of shows, so since she was my guest, I let her have complete control over the remote control. Since she doesn’t have high definition television, I assumed she’d make a beeline for some nature show or drama that was in high def. Not my luck. In instead, she chose “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?” (the answer for me is yes, thankfully) and “Don’t Forget the Lyrics”.

They were mind numbing.

I wouldn’t have so many problems with the 5th grader show, had the adults not seemed so stupid and that they spent more time on asking actual questions. There was too much filler on this show. I used to watch Jeopardy as a child and felt that was a show that made me smarter, but not 5th Grader. (By the way, I don’t watch Jeopardy anymore either, unless I am at someone else’s house and I am forced to.)

As far as Don’t Forget the Lyrics, there really are no words - but I'll try. The first contestant was a mother and two sons, who seemed pretty good with lyrics. But, again, the show was a lot of filler with a lot of pauses meant to build suspense (they didn’t). The second contestant was a woman who didn’t have one clue as to any lyrics for any of the songs. Why they would have a contestant that clearly couldn’t actually have a chance is beyond me. In addition to all this, we had to sit through endless teasers about the show itself while we were watching the show. For example, I think they showed several preview of the second contestant kicking up her leg, and doing the splits. So by the time that part of the show came up, the interest in this contestant had waned.

After watching these two shows, I felt like some of my brain cells actually died.

And because of the writer’s strike, the outlook looks even worse, with more game shows and reality shows set to start in January. I suspect that the IQ of Americans who watches this programming will drop significantly after the first week. The networks should be a little more creative when thinking of filling prime time hours. An occasional broadcast of something EDUCATIONAL that was shown on PBS, or stations like Discovery, couldn’t really hurt now, could it? It’s time that the networks try “smarting up” their viewers rather than dumbing them down. Then we wouldn't have to worry about if people were really smarter than a 5th grader, would we?

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