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April 26, 2000

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There's very little television that I actively watch. Oh, my TV's on almost the whole time I'm home (and sometimes accidentally left on when I leave home to come to work. You know the drill). But I don't pay a huge amount of attention to it. What the television represents is a whole bunch of background noise that doesn't call me away from what I'm doing while it's on, so I can focus on something else instead. Then, when I have a break, I can focus on the TV and let it soak in for a while, then go back to what I was doing.

So I have certain channels I watch, in hopes of not being interrupted by content. And those are in flux right now. Cartoon Network's been my fix for a long while, but they've done a lot of programming changes that have driven me away. Look, if you want to directly annoy someone thirty to forty years old, put The Flintstones on. It'll work, trust me. It's not good. Well, with a movie coming out, there's a lot of Flintstones on Cartoon Network right now, and not a lot of the stuff I actually like to have in the background. So I've been avoiding it lately (especially when I go to bed. There are smurfs on that thing now).

I go with Comedy Central a lot of the time, save that it has movies on a regular basis, and movies are dangerously close to content. When All of Me comes on, it reminds me that I actually like Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin very much. In fact, I even saw Lily Tomlin's one-woman-show in Philadelphia, and it was great -- despite her breaking character onstage. Literally. There was kind of a hammering sound going on the the background, and she'd doing a monologue, and midway through she apologizes and bitches out the production staff, who come on the PA to apologize to her. I loved it.

But I don't want to spend my evenings watching movies. I want to get something done with that time.

So, I figured I had a winner. One that would always be there for noise, but never disturb me with nasty content. Something that would be fun to focus on every now and again (which is the problem with watching the History Channel or the like -- it's either too dull or too interesting, never that happy contentless medium) but that I could ignore and never feel like I was missing a thing. The perfect noise-to-signal ratio for evening television.

The Game Show Network.

I mean, come on. What could you possibly miss on a game show? The secrets of life and the universe aren't ever going to be revealed in the Top Five Answers on the Board, Top One Hundred People Surveyed on the Question "Name a Popular Fruit People Use In Salad." No one's ever lived or died because of a Game Show -- at least, not since the late fifties. And on Sunday Night it's very old classic stuff from the forties through sixties, and that's always fun.

So, problem solved, right? Everything's all set, right?


The absolute worst television show ever is on Game Show Network, six times a night or so. Literally six times a night. Clearly, someone in production loves it. This is a show that makes Jerry Springer look honest, I swear to God. This is a show that makes 60 Minutes look polite. This is a show that makes me believe in the existence of demons.

I'm talking about The Newlywed Game, of course.

You remember it as being cheesy as Hell, but very fun tongue in cheek, right? Bob Eubanks makes some semi-witty, semi-naughty remarks and uses the word "whoopee" as a synonym for sex, and newlywed couples get to be cute and win prizes.

Oh no. No, that's not it at all. This is a show that actively trys to divorce couples, shattering their faith in one another. I got caught by it one day, and actually watched, and now I know the face of evil in our society.

The questions are designed to humiliate. Not titillate. Humiliate. There is no good answer to them. They're things like:

  • Name a body part your mate will say you need to improve.
  • If he could get away with it, which of your friends will your mate want to make whoopee with?
  • Where's the strangest place your wife has ever been naked?
  • Complete this sentence: "I don't believe in 900 numbers, but I'd gladly spend $3.99 a minute to put my husband on the <blank> hotline."

During it all, Bob asks for details. Intimate details. And laughs at them. It's like he plays them for suckers, tearing down the fragile connections of trust between husband and wife. And when the mate comes back, they have to try to match answers. They have to say what part of their spouse they think needs work. And if husband and wife don't match exactly, they argue. Wives hit their husbands with the notecards. Real anger surfaces. While Bob laughs and says "So geez, her boobs and her butt are bad, huh? I bet you're sleeping on the couch tonight!"

Shut up, Bob. You've done enough damage.

You may think I'm overreacting. I'm not. This is a show that makes a mockery of marriage. It's designed to humiliate. There is no way to be on the show and keep your dignity intact. None. And a marriage thrives on dignity. Even in the face of ridiculousness, if a man and woman can put their chins up high, hold hands and say "we accept one another," they have a kind of nobility of spirit that can see them through.

But The Newlywed Game doesn't permit that. "We accept one another" isn't an acceptable answer. You're not allowed to say "I don't want to change my wife's body parts. I married her for a reason, you moron." You're not allowed to say "it's none of your damn business where my wife and I have 'made whoopee.' Those are secrets we keep to ourselves." If you do, you won't be eligible for the trip to Fiji (where you can serve one another the divorce papers) or the complete new Kitchen (which you can divide up as community property).

In In Nomine, there is both a Demon Prince of the Media (name of Nybbas) and a Demon Prince of Dark Humor (name of Kobal). The former makes us into automatons, sucking in what the media says and never having creative thought or independent action. The latter perverts laughter into a tool for humiliation, tearing down our dreams in a cloud of derision.

Most of the Game Show Network belongs to Nybbas. It's perfect, by his lights. Heck, that's why I watch it. To be devoid of real content. To be noise I don't have to care about.

But The Newlywed Game belongs to Kobal, and it is purely evil. I'm not being facetious. It proves Dark Humor can be a bad thing. It proves that making fun of someone can do more damage than shooting them. And I don't think that's very funny at all.

If it were on once a night, I could ignore it. But it's not. It's on six freaking times from nine until two a.m. It wakes me up when I'm asleep, because it annoys me. It's worse than the bloody Flintstones.

So, it's back to looking for decent contentless television. I'm thinking maybe the Food Network is next.

Tomorrow I have a stress test, to see what my exercise tolerance is. Following that, I'm meeting Dominic and we're going to hang out. So I don't know when I'll get around to updating either the journal or the weblog. (Gasp -- real life. It scares me, my precious).

The stress test is one I'm looking "forward" to. It shouldn't be the problem the last one was. Or not as much of one. I'm still desperately out of shape, but the point of taking the test this time is to see if I'm ready to start getting into shape, or whether the heart problem is still profound enough that I really shouldn't be doing such things.

We'll see. I'll let you know.

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